As palay prices continue to go down and the alleged entry of tons of smuggled corn began eating up a portion of the domestic demand, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) asked the Philippine government to immediately implement safeguard measures for the producers of the country’s two main staple foods.
In a statement, PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said he has been seeking an audience from the Department of Agriculture (DA) regarding the plight of farmers.
He said the DA should at least consider implementing a tariff increase on imported farm commodities, mainly rice, so as to support local farmers.
For corn, DA should “at least” prohibit imported corn to coincide with the harvest, he added.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that palay prices fell to as low as P12 per kilogram (/kg) in some areas in the country during the third week of September, which means some farmers barely made money during this harvest season.
This, since in order to produce a kilo of rice in the Philippines, Filipino rice farmers have to spend P12.72, which is higher compared to the production cost of farmers in Vietnam and Thailand at P6.22/kg and P8.86/kg, respectively.
Under the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), which allowed unlimited rice importation in the country, in order to protect the Philippine rice industry from sudden or extreme price fluctuations, a special safeguard duty on rice shall be imposed in accordance with Safeguard Measures Act.
This means that when the prices of local palay are low, the government could increase the tariff imposed on imported rice to discourage traders from purchasing more cheaper imported rice.
Meanwhile, for corn, there has been an alleged smuggling issue involving thousands of metric tons of the staple that are scheduled to enter the Philippines, which Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PMFI) already raised to the DA.
PMFI President Roger Navarro, who is also a PCAFI member, said corn shipments are expected to arrive in the country soon but Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Director George Y. Culaste has denied this claim, saying that no permit has been issued for incoming corn importations.
“This leads us to assume that this coming corn is smuggled,” Navarro said.
Expected to arrive soon are the following corn shipments: 6,000 metric tons (MT) for General Santos arrival; 20,000 MT, Cagayan de Oro; 50,000 MT, Bicol; and 30,000 MT, Iloilo.
“We reported this to DA Secretary [William] Dar, and we are awaiting his action. These corn shipments will strike the fatal blow to the corn farmers who painstakingly harvested a huge 3.5 million tons, wet season crop,” Navarro said.
Navarro said he fears that DA’s inaction on the plummeting corn price forebodes a collapse of the
Worst, he said, the DA appears to be attempting to hide the problem of farmers experiencing low corn price.
“To my mind, this is not a good indication. [DA’s trying to cover up the truth] tries to tell the people to keep quiet as it intentionally tries to hide the problem and the reality,” said Navarro.
“We cannot hide the truth that we have a problem in agriculture. In effect, DA is building a high wall. But the crack on the wall runs down that it may suddenly collapse—shattered and badly broken. I don’t want to see that happen,” he added.
On Thursday, Rodolfo Pancrudo, a corn farmer, asked the government to help poorer corn farmers who are being “killed” by illegal smugglers and importers.
Pancrudo owns Pancrudo Farm in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon and is a former vice president of banana-exporting multinational Unifrutti.
Smuggling, according to him, may be the ultimate plight of farmers since they do not enjoy corn support price anymore, something that National Food Authority (NFA) implements prior to the implementation of RTL, which stripped the state-run grains agency’s regulatory power.
Pancrudo also asked the government to provide farmers with mechanical dryers and storage facilities because this should enable them to hold their sale of corn and wait until prices become more profitable.
“Traders haggle for the lowest price and tell farmers, ‘Your corn is of low quality’. That’s why farmers are forced to sell their corn even at only P9 per kilo because they need money. Otherwise, the harvest will just go to waste since there are no post-harvest facilities,” he added.