Farmers claiming that their unhusked rice (palay) were being bought at PHP7 a kilo can proceed to the National Food Authority (NFA) that buys at a higher price, the chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said Friday.
“Kung sino man yung mga farmers na nagsasabi na PHP7 to PHP8 per kilo na ang presyo nila at malulugi na, sabihin lang yung pangalan at address. Dalawang linggo na kami nananawagan hanggang ngayon wala naman, meaning may nanggugulo, may nagte-take advantage ng sitwasyon at talaga naman hindi sila tumitigil (Whoever farmer is saying that their price is now only PHP7 to PHP8 a kilo and they are starting to go bankrupt, just give us their name and address. We have been announcing in the last two weeks but there is none (farmer),” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said at the 6th Regional Organic Agriculture Congress and Farmers’ Forum at the Benguet Argi Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC).
The Secretary said the National Food Authority under the DA is buying “palay” at PHP19 a kilo.
“So what we did, was to add PHP2 to the palay support price of PHP17 becoming PHP19 per kilo of dry palay,” Dar said.
He added that the wet unhusked rice is bought by NFA from PHP15 to PHP16 a kilo, which is double than what some traders offer.
He said the government does not stop in coming up with measures to improve the lives of farmers.
For instance, Dar said the PHP2.5-billion fund of the agricultural policy council of the DA can be availed of by rice farmers who till one hectare or less in the form of a loan.
He said they can avail of a PHP15,000 loan for a hectare of land payable in eight years, at zero interest.
“Ayaw naman natin na ibigay ng libre para hindi naman mawala ang self-esteem at dignidad ng ating farmers (We do not want to give dole out so that our farmers will continue to have their self-esteem and dignity),” Dar said.
A farmer only needs to set aside PHP1,850 a year to cover the payment of the loan, he said.
He also said that those who will avail of the loan will be assured of market for their rice produce.
“NFA will buy their production,” he said.
He said the NFA has a capitalization fund of PHP7-B, which they can use in buying the production of the farmers. They can also increase their capacity to buy by revolving the fund on three rice cropping season to triple their money.
He also pointed out that they are encouraging the local government units to go into rice economic enterprise.
“We are asking the provincial also the municipal government to go into the whole rice chain as their economic enterprise,” he said.
The Landbank has a PHP10-billion fund that it can lend to the local governments that will engage in the rice chain at 2 percent interest per year payable in three years.
Ifugao Governor Jerry Dalipog, in an interview on the sidelines of the event, said they are already engaged in the economic enterprise, which is part of the rice terraces conservation movement.
“We commission people to plant and protect the rice terraces by planting heirloom rice on them. Once harvested, we buy what is produced in the rice paddies of the terraces and the proceeds are shared with the one who planted and the owner of the lot just so we can entice people to plant, which is the essence of the tourism of Ifugao,” Dalipog said.
Dar said he has ordered the NFA to bring out and start selling the 3.4 million bags that are included in the country’s buffer stock and stored in different warehouses.
This will assure that the NFA will have enough money to buy the rice production harvest where the bulk will be harvest in October and November.
This will also make sure that the warehouses will be free and can accommodate those that will be bought from the farmers during the coming months’ harvest.
Stable supply and prices
Dar said rice prices at the market range from PHP35 to PHP45 a kilo but the government aims to bring it down for PHP25 to PHP27 a kilo.
He also said “when there is enough rice supply, it significantly reduces inflation.”
The Secretary said there will be no importation allowed during harvest months, to assure that the market will not be flooded and the local production be prioritized for local consumption.