Senator Ralph Recto urged on Monday the Department of Agriculture (DA) to look into the low buying rice of palay being reported by farmers on social media.
The Senate President Pro-Tempore said that government figures on the palay prices have to be verified “because this may not be what is happening on the ground.”
Latest Philippine Statistics Authority data pegged at P17.64 the average farm gate price of a kilogram of palay, while farmers groups said that the prices actually fall to as low as P12.50 per kilo.
“The least that the DA can do is to spot areas where palay is being bought at bargain prices and recommend measures on how to shore it up so that farmers will not be at the losing end,” he said in a statement.
Recto lamented that the P12-per-kilo price “is lower than the price of a face mask” and will not able to finance the farmers’ production cost.
Citing a 2018 study on the season cost-returns on rice production, Recto estimated that at P20.40/kg, a farmer will net P33,355 average per hectare. “But at P12 a kilo, wala siyang kita (the farmer has no profit), as in zero.”
He also noted that the lockdowns and transport limitation may have also pushed up some rice production inputs.
Recto said palay income is an economic driver in many rural economies, which have been absorbing the recent urban unemployed.
For this reason, he said the DA should study to what extent imports are depressing farm prices, “and call for the pulling of the brakes if needed.”
“Akala ko ba (I thought), our suki (patron) rice exporting countries have adopted a policy of rice nationalism wherein they are limiting, if not banning, the export of rice as a buffer during the pandemic?” he asked.
If this is the case, he said the share of imports should be filled in by local production, “but it will be impossible to ramp up production if low prices are a disincentive.”
“Kung ganyan ‘yan, at hindi maagapan, baka maging plantito at plantita na lang ang mga rice farmers kung nakikita nila na mas mahal ang bentahan ng mga ito (If this continues, our rice farmers would just opt to be plantitos and plantitas if they find that prices of potted plants are higher than that of palay),” Recto said.