By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Some farmers in Central Luzon are being forced to dispose their yield at P7 per kilogram (/kg) amid the harvest season, thanks to the influx of imported rice flooding the market.
Some members of the National Movement for Food Sovereignty (NMFS) reported that palay prices have already dived down to as low as P7/kg in some parts of Central Luzon. This is way lower than what the farmers supposedly spent to produce a kilo of unhusked rice.
During the fourth week of October, the average farm-gate price of palay also fell by 24.2 percent from its level of P20.36 per kilogram (/kg) in the same week of the previous year to P15.43/kg, the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.
This is still below the lowest palay price of P15.91/kg that was recorded in 2011.
This forced NMFS to gather members of farmers’ organization and peasant sectors on Monday as part of an ongoing nationwide protest against the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).
The group wanted to express their dismay on the termination of process of studying the imposition of safeguard duties on imported rice, the over excessive rice imports in the country, and the continuous plummeting of palay farmgate prices.
This, according to them, will all be addressed by the immediate repeal of the Rice Tariffication Law.
Senator Francis Pangilinan shared the same stand on this matter, saying over the weekend that aside from cash compensation, there is really a need to review the Rice Tariffication Act.
According to him, rice farmers already lost P62 billion due to flood of rice imports.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that so far for this year, as much as 2.9 million metric tons (MT) already entered the Philippines, a record breaking for the country. This also made the Philippines the world’s top rice importer, beating China.
But last week, Dar, together with the the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), has appealed for the public to give RTL a chance.
According to them, the current situation of the rice industry is just “short-term transition challenges”.
“Recently, rice farmers have been having a hard time due to the drastic lowering of palay prices. If we would have to wait longer in order to give the law a chance, what would happen to our farmers? What if in that next two years of waiting, there will be barely any farmers who continue farming because they will only incur losses? The government can’t even give immediate and proper support to the farmers,” said Manuel Rosario, Chairperson of Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK) and co-convenor of NMFS.