By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Typhoon “Tisoy,” the strongest storm to hit the country this year, and some farmers’ decision to abandon rice farming amid declining palay prices are taking a toll on the country’s year-end palay output.
An overall outlook by the United States of Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) showed a higher rice importation for the Philippines this year.
In addition, the USDA’s Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report prepared by US Embassy’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) here specified that the outlook for the country’s rice production has been “revised downward due to damages from Typhoon Kammuri,” locally known as Typhoon Tisoy.
“Rice imports during the year, on the other hand, will increase 200,000 metric tons (MT) as a result of lower production, enhanced by some shifting away from rice cultivation due to low paddy prices,” the GAIN report said.
Typhoon Kammuri caused an estimated ₱3.7 billion in damage to the Philippines’ farm sector when it passed through seven regions earlier this month.
Tisoy particularly wiped out as much as 195,046 MT of farm output, mainly rice, and had left 132,166 hectares of farm land in Central Luzon, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, Bicol Region, Western Visayas, Ilocos Region, Eastern Visayas destroyed.
The GAIN report estimated that for rice alone, Typhoon Kammuri destroyed 105,000 MT of paddies in 78,000 hectares of rice farms.
For the entire 2019, the Department of Agriculture (DA) expects total paddy output to reach 18.48 million MT, 3 percent lower than last year’s 19.06 million MT output.
“The downward revisions are steeper as a result of the continued decline in paddy prices, which will force some farmers to shift away from rice cultivation in MY [Market Year] 2019/2020. According to a rice miller, farmers will wait for one or two more rice crops before deciding to shift to other crops or pursue another livelihood,” the report said.
From July to September 2019, the average farmgate price of palay was ₱16.11 per kilo (/kg), 27 percent lower than the ₱21.92/kg average price during the same period in 2018.
For the month of September alone, paddy rice prices were at ₱14.76/kg, down 9 percent from ₱16.2 per kilo the previous month, and 16 percent lower than ₱17.5/kg in March when the Rice Tarrification Law (RTL) was implemented.
“Paddy prices are expected to remain subdued as the main harvest is underway,” the GAIN report further said.
It then said that “mainly due to the expected decline in local rice production, rice imports were raised 200,000 MT to 2.9 million MT in MY 2019/2020.”
To recall, the Philippines had recently beaten China and is now the world’s biggest rice importer.
As part of the measures to ease farmers’ suffering from the impact of RTL, which allowed unlimited rice importation in the country, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the government will be providing ₱5,000 one-time cash assistance to some rice farmers.
The distribution will start today (Monday), Dar said.