KMP reiterates call to increase tobacco farmgate price to ₱128 per kilo

This article is available in Pilipino

The Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation)-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)-Ilocos is again pushing for the government to raise the farmgate price of tobacco to ₱128 per kilo. They call for prices to be fixed following recent increase to ₱100-₱113, from the previous floor price of ₱81-₱97, depending on the class. The group says today’s increase in the prices proves the justness of their decades-old demand.

“Although the increased purchase price of tobacco since the opening of the sale season provides relief from past losses, the issue of price uncertainty remains. The government should ensure fair and fixed prices, instead of offering cosmetic increases like this every year,” says Julie Balangue, spokesperson for Stop Exploitation.

Balangue further explained, this increase only compensated for the rising cost of production and commodities. “It’s been more than a decade since we first pushed for the price of ₱128 per kilo. The price of tobacco we see today is too late and only covers a small part of the fair compensation for our work and dedication to production,” she said.

Farmers in Ilocos are still waiting to see if the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) and market centers will be able to maintain this tobacco farmgate price because they have experienced sudden price drops in the past. Stop Exploitation, on the other hand, ridiculed and told the NTA to stop claiming credit for the increase in tobacco price when they did nothing to push for it. The group says this is the result of the suffering and struggle of the farmers.

“For years and up to now, the agency has failed to address the grievances of farmers because it allows the market centers and companies to control prices and dictate market demand,” according to Balangue.

According to the NTA itself, the price of Class AA flue-cured Virginia may hit ₱113 to ₱127 per kilo, from the floor price of ₱97. While the class of air-cured Burley and local tobacco can reach ₱100 per kilo from the ₱81 per kilo floor price. The floor price of tobacco is set through the collusion of the private sector and NTA under the guise of a “tripartite consultative conference” with farmers.

In addition to the price increase, there was a relaxation of tobacco classification rules this year. Stop Exploitation says this demonstrates the ability of the private sector to purchase tobacco at higher prices without imposing onerous restrictions and classifications.

Farmers in the region lamented that companies use the system of classification to cheapen the farmgate prices. “Farmers should not benefit from the relaxed restrictions only for this year but it should be standardized,” according to Balangue. Despite this, they affirmed their call that this classification system should altogether be abolished.

In 2019 data, farmers spend an average of ₱151,060 per hectare of tobacco production. A large portion of the cost goes to production equipment (₱62,631) and land rent (₱18,856). Farmers spend more than six months in production, from planting to harvesting and selling. Majority of farms (66%) are located in Ilocos Region, followed by Cagayan Valley (19%). About 2.1 million Filipinos depend on the industry including an estimated 430,000 farmers, farm workers and their families.

AB: KMP reiterates call to increase tobacco farmgate price to ₱128 per kilo