By Ben Rosario
Instead of pushing through with plans to import 300,000 metric tons of rice, government must make sure that all 600,000 farmers engaged in rice farming will be granted cash dole outs under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).
Deputy Speaker and 1Pacman Partylist Rep. Mikee Romero made this call as he urged government to postpone rice importation until rice farmers have harvested their main season crop.
Government is reportedly planning to purchase 300,000 metric tons of rice notwithstanding its earlier claims that local farmers are capable of producing enough to feed the whole population until December 2020.
Romero noted that although harvest peaked late last month until early May, many farmers are still harvesting their dry season palay crop.
“Let’s wait for them to finish in about two weeks before finalizing any rice importation agreement,” the senior administration lawmaker said.
Romero warned that importing rice at this time could be disadvantageous to rice farmers who will consequently have to compete with the prices of rice imported by government.
“We all know that traders are monitoring rice prices, on which they base their buying price for the farmers’ palay produce,” he said.
He noted that Filipino farmers are currently enjoying reasonable price of their harvest, saying that they need the financial gain to cope with the hardship brought about by the Covid 19 pandemic.
“We are happy for them. They are getting fairly reasonable prices for their palay, unlike last year when they lost money due to low prices,” he stated.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) has announced that the government would be importing 300,000 metric tons (six million 50-kilo bags) of rice through the Philippine International Trading Corp., which was already in negotiation with Vietnam.
Romero, president of the Partylist Coalition Foundation Inc. said that to further help farmers, government must ensure that they are able to get the P5,000 financial assistance granted by government.
The House official said that as of the May 5 report of the DA, 415,000 of the intended beneficiaries had already received aid, leaving a balance of 185,000 who were still awaiting the assistance.
However, he said he noted in the report that almost all of the P3-billion budget for the program “has been transferred to government financial institutions” for distribution to rice farmers.
“This means that the aid delivery problem lies with the authorized bank-distributors. I am urging Land Bank and other accredited conduits to speed up the distribution of financial assistance to our farmers,” Romero noted.