Farmers are appealing to Agriculture Secretary William Dar to stop claiming that palay prices are high at P19 per kilogram (/kg), because such dismissiveness is resulting in fear among the country’s main staple food producers that the government will not do anything to resolve their plea.
“Secretary Dar does not seem to know what he is talking about. What’s happening here in our area is very different from what he claims. It will indeed be burdensome for us if this continues yearly,” said a farmer interviewed by the Rice Watch Action Network (R1).
On Tuesday, Dar, amid growing complaints from rice farmers, reiterated that prices of palay are now at P19/kg, which is still way above the production cost for rice that currently stood at P12/kg.
As he said this, he also said that at least around 300,000 metric tons (MT) of imported rice is expected to enter the country for the remainder of the year, which he said is a positive development because this means the country wouldn’t face a shortage of the staple.
However, farmers Ryan de Guzman and Jovitaercialla Damianna refuted Dar’s claim, saying that even in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, freshly harvested palay is priced at P12.50/kg to P13.00/kg, while dry palay is bought at P16.50/kg.
In South Upi, Maguindanao, fresh palay is priced at a dismal P7/kg, while dry palay is at P15/kg to P16.50/kg, according to Froilyn Mendoza, who is a farmer in that area.
Aside from the low buying price of palay, farmers reported that in Parang, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, P2/kg is being charged by traders for transportation costs, while in Buug, Zamboang Sibugay, five kilos are being deducted in the weight of each wet palay sacks sold.
Since the start of the October harvest season, many farmers from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao are complaining due to the very low palay buying prices of traders.
To alleviate the situation, the National Food Authority (NFA), whose sole mandate is to boost the country’s rice buffer stock for calamities and national emergencies, has been ramping up its palay procurement using its remaining fund, which is about P10 billion.
This, according to NFA Administrator Judy Dansal, is enough to buy additional 10 million bags of palay.
R1, a civic society group that aims to protect welfare rice farmers, said NFA’s current annual budget is not even enough to buy 5 percent of the country’s total palay production.
“ additional supplemental funds for NFA for emergency palay buying operations. A P7 billion GAA allocation is too low because it will not even capture five percent of total harvest,” R1 said.
“The Congress must allocate enough funds to buy at least 10 percent or more of the farmers’ harvest yearly,” it added.
The group also called for the further enhancement of the storage and post-harvest facilities of NFA and the local government units (LGUs) so they can ramp up their procurement.
There should also be transportation assistance given to rice farmers selling their produce, the group said.
“The price of dry palay is P2/kg to P4/kg higher per kilo of fresh palay. most farmers sell freshly-harvested instead of dry palay because of lack of storage and drying facilities. This also includes the fact that farmers are heavily indebted to traders and are left with no choice but to give away their harvest in payment of their debts,” R1 Executive Director Hazel Tanchuling said.