Prioritize, support, and subsidize our own farmers
PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas (The Freeman) - September 5, 2019 - 12:00am

What is the matter with this administration? Does it genuinely understand or care about the problems affecting our people, especially our food producers- the farmers, fishers, forest dwellers?

Take the ongoing predicament of our farmers. Loudly and clearly, they decry and are protesting the extreme and continuing drop in the buying price of palay!

Philippine Statistics Authority data for the 2nd week of August showed that a kilo of palay was P17.62, far lower by 20.9 per cent than the P22.28 per kilo price for the same period in 2018.

This week, farmers complained about the drop in palay price to P7-P8 per kilo in Nueva Ecija, a major rice-growing province of this country. Isabela and other farmers have also added their cries to stop extremely low palay prices adversely affecting them and their families.

The continuing drop in palay prices has been noted since last year. But to date, Du30’s government has not provided the appropriate response to this serious problem affecting not only our farmers but other sectors as well.

Farmers and other affected sectors point to the The Rice Tariffication Law (R.A. 11203 sponsored by Senator Cynthia Villar and signed into law by DU30 last February 2019) which allowed the unlimited entry of cheap rice imported from other countries as the major cause of this problem of plummeting palay prices.

Senator Francis Pangilinan noted that “since the country produces about 20 billion kilograms of palay a year, farmers have lost as much as P60 billion since last year. “If one farmer averages 4,000 kilos of palay per harvest, he loses 4,000 pesos for every peso drop in palay prices in one season.”

Pangilinan said that even the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) provided by the law is not enough. “The efforts of our farmers are put to waste. What happens is we end up supporting farmers from other countries while ours go hungry and without livelihood.”

Danny Fausto, President of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. (PCAFI) reported that “the new rice regime has so far stripped P95 billion in losses for farmers.” PCAFI has suggested that “the government start increasing the tariff on rice imports to help plummeting prices of palay to recover. “

Other sectors call for the immediate scrapping or stopping of unrestricted rice imports and the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law.

In a May 2019 report, Annette Tobias, a Science Research Specialist of the  Socio-Economics Research Division (SERD) of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), Department of Science and Technology (DOST) noted that the Philippines, in the 1970s, was a rice exporter to Indonesia, China, and Myanmar.

However, the country slowly turned into the second largest rice importer in the world next to China, importing rice from Vietnam (52%) and Thailand (29%). Ms. Tobias then sounded the alert: “how to prevent 2.4 million rice farmers and farm workers from getting poorer because of the implementation of the new law.”

Our farmers are demanding ”subsidiya, hindi pautang”- not the P15000 loan or Survival and Recovery (SURE) aid dangled by the Department of Agriculture with the Agriculture Credit Policy Council to be released through the Landbank.

“Hindi naman ramdam ng mga magsasaka ang mga programa ng gobyerno. Saan sasapat 'yang P15,000 na 'yan? Samantalang 'yong puhunan mo lang sa pagsasaka ay dito pa lang sa mga input, halos P10,000 plus na."

Urgent prioritization, immediate support and subsidy of our farmers and other food producers will translate into sustainable food supply and security for our people and our country.

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