DA asked to probe low price of palay

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - September 29, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) should look into the reported low buying price of palay, with farmers taking to social media to gripe that a newly harvested kilo is being bought at P12, “which is lower than the price of a face mask,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.

As of the first week of September, government reports peg the average farm gate price of a kilo of palay at P17.64 but he said “this should be verified, because this may not be what is happening on the ground.”

“The least that the DA can do is to spot areas where palay is being bought at bargain prices and recommend measures on how to shore it up so that farmers will not be at the losing end,” Recto said.

At that price point, he said rice farmers would not be able to recoup their production cost.

At P20.40 a kilo, a farmer will net P33,355 average per hectare, based on a 2018 season cost-returns study on rice production by the government, Recto said.

But at P12 a kilo, “wala siyang kita (he has no profit), as in zero,” the senator said, in applying that buying price on the results of said study.

He said some rice production inputs may have increased this year on account of lockdowns, which have made transportation harder and more expensive.

Rice, he said, accounts for 18 percent of value produced by Philippine agriculture. In terms of area, around 4.65 million hectares planted to the country’s food staple account for the biggest share in cultivated land.

He said palay income is an economic driver in many rural economies, which have been absorbing the recent urban unemployed.

He said DA should study to what extent imports are depressing farm prices, “and call for the pulling of the brakes if needed.”

“I thought our favored rice exporting countries have adopted a policy of rice nationalism wherein they are limiting, if not banning, the export of rice as a buffer during the pandemic?” Recto said.

If this is the case, then the share of imports, about 13 percent of national consumption, should be filled in by local production, but it will be impossible to ramp up production if low prices are a disincentive, Recto said.

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