DA rolls out ‘Bigas ng Masa’ rice program

RICE FOR THE MASSES. Romeo Morano, a senior citizen from Barangay Culiat, Quezon City, loads on his mountain bike 25 kilos of Angelica rice which he bought from the Agribusiness Development Center (ADC) in Quezon City. The Department of Agriculture (DA) launched in Metro Manila on Feb. 14, 2018 the "Bigas ng Masa" -- a program which allows farmer cooperatives to directly sell rice to consumers. It will also be rolled out in its regional offices to address the rice supply shortage of the National Food Authority (NFA). (PNA photo by Ben Briones)

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) set its “Bigas ng Masa” affordable rice program rolling on Wednesday, initially launching it in Quezon City and shortly farming it out to its regional offices nationwide.

To make it more accessible to more Filipinos, the DA said Bigas ng Masa outlets can be set up in the regions, where farmers’ cooperatives can directly sell the affordable rice to consumers.

“We’ll help market their rice,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said in a media briefing Wednesday.

Aside from helping farmers earn, he said such marketing assistance under the Bigas ng Masa would eliminate price-raising layers of middlemen and other players crowding the supply chain, so consumers can buy rice that’s generally cheaper than what’s sold in the market.

With Bigas ng Masa, DA said consumers can buy quality rice at PHP38 per kilogram.

The DA assured looking into interventions that would further lower rice prices without draining the farmers’ income.

Piñol expressed disappointment over reported increases in commercial prices of rice after reports that the National Food Authority has dwindling rice stocks.

He said this should not be the case, as rice harvest in the country even increased last year, based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The DA and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) assured the country’s rice situation is under control, noting “there’s enough rice for everybody” for 92 days straight.