Two faces of tobacco farmers

August 17, 2013 at 8:04 pm Leave a comment

By Virgilio Sar. Maganes
VILLASIS- This town used to be a prime producer of burley and native tobaccos. This is because of its fertile land and the industriousness of the people who toiled hard to plant tobacco which is labor intensive.
But tobacco farmers here still believe that the industry, whether the native or the burly variety, could still be a prime source of income despite the lack of support from the government.
Ernesto Novencido, 56, married of Amamperez village, is still waiting for a buyer of his stockpiled native tobacco produced from his almost a hectare farmland.
“ We are still waiting for our buyer to come in order to have a good price of our ‘batek,’” he said, his eyes glowing.
Buyer is Awan Chan of Dagupan City who loaned him money for the production of native “batek” tobacco.
“Batek” is the topmost part of the native tobacco variety which is left to age to develop reddish-brown spots. It is usually used to produce cigars, chewable tobaccos and is a prime mix for cigarettes.
“ Chan provides us the needed financing for our tobacco production, from farm preparation up to drying period. He doesn’t demand collaterals and there is not much paper work. We just sign a logbook indicating the amount borrowed with minimal interest, “ Novencido said.
He said planting tobacco is also a source of job for his neighbors who work in the tobacco field during land preparation, transplanting, harvesting and sticking.
“ During the four months period of production, tobacco is their source of livelihood,” he said.
Amamperez village is one of the villages in this town where native tobacco is planted. The other villages are Barangobong and Piaz , which have a total area of 190 hectares. Out of this area, 100 hectares are under the contract growing of the National Tobacco Administration (NTA).
According to Lorna Espanto, tobacco technician of NTA, a hectare is entitled to a financial assistance of P31,500 with 0.5 % interest per month during the production period and one-percent service fee.
Under contract growing, Espanto said, tobacco farmers are assured of the market at P60 per kilo and P3,500 per pardo of “batek”. A “ pardo” equals to a 120 sticks with an average of 14 tobacco leaves per stick.
“ So far as of now under my supervision, collections is high at 85%,” Espanto said.
But Novencido and some of his neighbors who also plant tobacco did not avail of the contract growing scheme of NTA. He said, he and his neighbors are loyal to Awan Chan who for years had been their source of financial assistance.
Asked if he would shift to other crops, Novencido said he will not.
“ I inherited this industry from my parents. It has been the source of livelihood together with my siblings. Through the income from tobacco, I was able to send my children to school,” he said.
However, native tobacco produced in this town does not find its way to La Reyna Corporation, a buyer of “batek” that is based in this town.
The tobacco produced here is being marketed in Mindanao and Visayas while La Reyna Corporation buys its “batek” in La Union, which is of better quality, according to NTA Provincial Manager Cesario Sambrana.
Sambrana said “batek” in this town has higher nicotine level due to the fertilizers used.
“ At NTA, we prescribed the correct fertilizers which has lower nitrogen content like sulfate and urea. But many tobacco farmers resort to the use of triple 14 (14-14-14) that has high level of nitrogen. But different companies have their own standard of quality tobacco. If they want higher nicotine levels, then they have to adjust the nitrogen component of the fertilizer used. We provide the technology, so the farmers have no choice but to follow our recommendations,” Sambrana said.
In Tombod village in this town, Delfin Abrenica, 72, married, is a burley tobacco producer.
He said he used to plant burley tobacco in a more than a hectare land. But with the coming in of the irrigation facilities, his tobacco farm was reduced to 2,500 square meters . He planted the rest to palay.
Abrenica is under the contract growing of Universal Leaf Philippines, Inc. (formerly Lancaster) and is being supervised by a technician.
“ Before, burley tobacco farming is very lucrative in this village. Many of our tobacco farmers have already shifted to palay production,” he said.
Before the construction of the irrigation system here, Tombod village is one of the best producers of burley tobacco in Pangasinan, comparable to that of quality produced in San Fabian town.
For his 2,500- square meter tobacco land, Universal Leaf loaned him P24,000. This amount was used for land preparation, purchase of plastic curing shed, and harvesting.
What is so frustrating, he said, was that at the end of the harvest season, his produce was not even enough to pay his loan to Universal Leaf because part of his crop was destroyed by the water coming from the irrigation facilities.
“ The water from the irrigation was uncontrollable. Tobacco is not water- tolerant. Once inundated with water, that ends the life of the tobacco plant,” he said.
Abrenica said in spite of such situation, he still planning to plant burley tobacco in the future.
“ There is life in the planting of tobacco. Burley is not that hard to produce. There’s no need for sticking. I think planting burley here should be time when the water in the irrigation systems is not enough to destroy standing burley tobacco plants,” he said.

Entry filed under: News.

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