By Marjaleen Ramos
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol on Wednesday said the country is suffering from what he called an “anomalous food chain” where traders, instead of farmers, dictate prices of rice sold to them.
In an effort to break the “anomalous food chain”, Department of Agriculture launched its ‘Bigas ng Bayan’ project which aims to help farmers in loan processing, rice milling, and marketing.
“We want to bring farmers’ produce directly to the consumers. We have no beef against businessmen, but we believe that profit in the food industry should not hurt the consumer or decrease the income of the farmer,” Piñol said.
He said he we wants to train farmers how to process their own produce.
Through Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) program, DA will be able to make easy access credit available to farmers.
Piñol said that the farmers’ inaccessibility and unavailability of credit in rural areas are among the problems in rice production.
“P38/kilo of rice is still actually quite high. I was told that the price of rice could go as low as P34/kilo, but we’re not promising that yet,” the Agriculture Secretary added.
Against Private Sector
Piñol noted that he’d rather not let the private sector control the rice industry following the issue on anomalous food chain.
“NFA has good intentions, but when it comes to allocations in specific regions, may mga butas. Maraming instances where NFA rice is sold to favored wholesalers.
“NFA Administrator Jason Aquino is an upright person, but he is handling an agency ‘embroiled in questionable transactions,” the DAR secretary explained.
Yet, Piñol clarified that he is not accusing top NFA officials of irregularity.
Rice opportunities to come
“I mentioned to President Duterte the idea of finding sources for planting of rice by Filipino entrepreneurs, farmers. Shortage may not happen in my lifetime, but we have to prepare for the future as early as now.”
He said Duterte has given him the go signal to visit Papua New Guinea next month for Filipino entrepreneurs to plant rice in the country.
Filipino entrepreneurs and farmers will supply rice to Papua New Guinea. The excess rice can be sold to the Philippines.