House panel starts probe on decreasing prices of palay

The House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture and Food, under its chairman Quezon 1st District Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga started its deliberation on the two resolutions seeking an inquiry into the decreasing prices of palay on Tuesday, October 26.

House Resolution 6 filed by Nueva Ecija 1st District Rep. Estrellita Suansing calls for an investigation on the plummeting farmgate price of palay while HR 320 filed by Deputy Speaker and Sorsogon 1st District Rep. Evelina Escudero seeks an inquiry into the present state of farmers especially in the planting, sale, and pricing of palay.

Both resolutions seek to propose measures to ease the burden of rice farmers in the country.

In his opening remarks, Enverga said the committee will look into the decreasing prices of palay.

He said that based on reports in September, prices of palay dropped to as low as P10 per kilograms in Oriental Mindoro, while it is P12 to P14 per kilograms in Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Camarines Sur and Ilocos Norte.

“This is a precarious situation. We don’t want our farmers to stop planting. It will be best if we address the factors that caused the drop of palay prices,” Enverga said.

On the issue of rice importation, Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) Director George Culaste said that the BPI handles the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance for rice in a way that import arrival will not coincide with the peak local harvest of the farmers.

Raul Montemayor of the Federation of the Free Farmers Cooperatives, Inc. (FFFCI), on the other hand, attributed the causes of drop in palay prices to the rise in cheap and undervalued imports, rainy weather, and lack of post-harvest facilities, among others.

Suansing, in her summary, said that they have to monitor the implementation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund which will help reduce the production cost. She also added that they have to consider the timing in the distribution of seeds, and organize the farmers as cooperatives to qualify them to receive farm machinery.

The House panel will continue the inquiry in their next hearing. (Melvin Sarangay)