Safeguards needed to protect rice farmers
PCAFI president Danilo Fausto told reporters the government should protect local farmers who are being hit by the decline in prices.
Safeguards needed to protect rice farmers
Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - July 28, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Chamber of Agricultural and Food Inc. (PCAFI) is urging the government to implement safeguards in the importation of rice in a bid to protect farmers from the drop in the prices of rice.

PCAFI president Danilo Fausto told reporters the government should protect local farmers who are being hit by the decline in prices.

“In case of extreme and abrupt fluctuation of prices, the Department of Agriculture should recommend to the Department of Finance the imposition of higher tariff,”Fausto said.

Under the implementing rules and regulations(IRR) of the Rice Tariffication Act, the President has the power to enforce safeguard measures in case of emergency such as the sudden rise and drop in domestic prices.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that farmgate prices of palay  dropped 16.4 percent in June to P17.88 per kilo.

Prices of well-milled rice also declined to P42.92 per kilo or by about P6 per kilo from their peak price of P49.36 in September 2018.

Retail prices of regular milled rice decreased by P7.54 per kilo last month.

Meanwhile, PCAFI is also moving for the flexible use of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) particularly for more essential inputs for rice farming such as fertilizers and irrigation.

Under the law, P10 billion from the RCEF will be used for the provision of mechanized equipment and certified seeds to be distributed to the rice farmers should they seek government assistance.

Fausto said since P27 billion is expected to be raised from tariff duties,PCAFI suggested that the excess of the P10 billion could be provided as support for the more essential inputs of rice farming, namely fertilizers and irrigation as well as support to other farmers pushing for diversification into other agricultural goods.

“This makes the excess of P10 billion very flexible, therefore it was also suggested that there should be specification as to how the excess of the RCEF must be utilized,” the PCAFI said.

PCAFI likewise emphasized that farmers should be allowed to continue using hybrid seeds.

Under the law, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) must provide only inbred rice seeds to the farmers.

PCAFI pointed out that some rice farmers are already using hybrid rice seeds, which have been proven to perform better in terms of productivity. It said inbred seeds could  produce six to eight tons per hectare, while hybrid rice has been recorded to produce up to 10 to 12 tons per hectare.

“It was suggested that those using hybrid rice seeds should be free to continue using hybrids, while those in need of the RCEF will be provided with inbred seeds,” PCAFI said.

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