Bt corn farming not profitable


TUMAUINI, Isabela—They barely earn any from growing Bt corn yet they keep on planting because their land is too dry and is no good for rice and vegetable crops.

Women corn farmers from different barangay chapters of AMIHAN Women organization in Tumauini, Isabela attended the Asosasyon Dagiti Mannalon a Babbai ti Isabela’s first assembly at Lalauanan on July 7. Photo by Kimberly Joy Alejo

Right after the formation of their municipal wide organization, the Amihan (National Federation of Peasant Women) Tumauini chapter, shared their woes as corn farmers.

Estrellita Sinuto-Reyes, a corn farmer from Bantug village said Bt-corn is a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) that requires so many farm inputs; fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides among others.

Scientists define GMO as “a plant or animal that has been genetically modified through the addition of a small amount of genetic material from other organisms through molecular techniques.”

“This kind of corn is not fit for human consumption, it is for animal feeds,” Reyes said.

She shared that it takes 125 days during the dry season and 140 days during the wet season for the Bt corn to mature and be ready for harvest. She said that the first cropping starts in June to July and will be harvested by October to November. The second cropping is sometime December which could be harvested between April to May.

Reyes said that commercial farming needs a lot of hard work and patience. “It also needs big capital,” she added.

Jocelyn Reyno, also from Bantug village, said they have to buy Bt corn seeds every planting season because GMOs do not reproduce.

Reyno said that they need two bags of seeds for every one hectare of land. She said the cheapest brand costs P3,900 per bag and the most expensive is at P7,000 a bag. A bag of seeds weighs about seven to nine kilos.

“Aside from the seeds we have to buy fertilizers, herbicides and pay for labor and transportation,” she said.

She said that they need two to three sacks of basal (fertilizer before planting) and another two to three sacks of side dressing (fertilizer for young corn plants) that costs P850 to P1,000 per sack at 50 kilos per sack. They will need two to three liters of herbicide at P250 per liter.

She further said that they hire additional farm help for plowing, planting, fertilizer application and harvest. She said they will need at least two farm help for plowing at P400 per person; for planting and fertilizer and herbicide application at P200 per person.

She said they will need around 20 farm help for harvest at P200 per person. “Those who could not pay for labor will volunteer to help in the farms of their neighbors, we usually help each other to make the burden lighter,” she said.

After harvest, the corn still needs to be threshed, so they spend money again to get the service. Threshing services costs P120 per sack at 50 kilos per sack.

“The implementation of the TRAIN law resulted to an increase in the prices of our farm inputs,” Reyno said.

The TRAIN or Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion is the first package of the comprehensive tax reform program (CTRP) of the Duterte administration.

After the implementation the TRAIN law, Reyno said that from P3,900 per bag, the cheapest brand of corn seeds is now P4,000. She said that a liter that used to be P850 is now P1,050. She said that even fertilizers now costs P50 more per sack.

“The increase may be a few hundreds but this is already too much for us farmers who are already buried neck high in debts,” Reyno said.

“As it is we are left only with a list of debts and supply to buy after selling our crops, so any increase in prices no matter how seemingly small is too much for us,” Merigin Agcaoili, a corn farmer from Caligayan village said.

Agcaoili tills some two hectares of land. She usually harvest 180 sacks of corn which becomes 120 sacks left after drying at 50 kilos per sack.

“The buyers dictate the price, farmers do not have any say on this,” she said.

She said that the current buying price for corn is at P12 to P13 or P7 to P8 per kilo depending on the quality. “The buyer also solely decides whether our crops are high or low quality,” she said.

“We can not do anything because nobody will buy our crops at a higher price,” she added.

Agcaoili further said that the buyers also lend capital to farmers. She said buyers usually buy the crops of those who borrowed money from them at a lower price that many farmers could not pay for their loans until they get drowned in debt. “Many of us have lost their lands because it becomes debt payment,” she said.

The women corn farmers of Tumauini said they could only plant corn because their lands are not irrigated. They said that there are ongoing irrigation projects but it has not reached them yet.

So while waiting for the much needed water, they just put their bets on Bt corn and hope that their crops are bought at a better price every harvest. #


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