Farmers urge Marcos to hike palay buying to P23/kilo

Published August 7, 2022, 11:00 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Rice farmers appealed to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is also concurrent agriculture secretary, to hike the National Food Authority’s (NFA) palay (unhusked rice) buying price by 21 percent to P23 per kilogram from the prevailing P19 a kilo to help farmers and defray the high cost of planting inputs.

Simeon Sioson, chairman of Four (4) SM Agri Multipurpose Cooperative, representing a group of rice farmers from San Miguel, Bulacan, said that at P23 per kg palay price support, farmers are already assured of earnings.

Before the Rice Tariffication law was implemented, Sioson said the NFA was buying palay at P20.70 per kg. But this went down to P19 when the law took effect. At P19 per kilo of palay, the farm gate price for skin dry palay was only P10 to P14.

But even at P20.70 per kilo where the farm gate price was already higher at P16-P20 per kilo, farmers still have a hard time because prices of inputs have gone up substantially.

For instance, he said, prices of fertilizer have gone up to P2,600 per bag from P900 before. Rice farming has also been impacted by climate change.

Based on the 19.3 million metric ton palay harvest in 2021, Sioson estimated that the harvest was equivalent to 386 million bags of rice or an estimated total of P347.4 billion at P18 per kilo skin dry rice or P900 per sack of rice.

Sioson estimated that farmers would in turn use their sales to buy other needs from which the government was expected to earn P41.688 billion in value added tax.

“The taxes collected should be enough for NFA to rollover for another palay buying as buffer stock,” he said. Taxes are also expected to be higher with expected higher palay harvest.

This way, he said, the P20 per kilo rice campaign promise of then presidential aspirant Marcos Jr. would be possible. The government should be able to feed consumers with P20 per kilo rice for up to 65 days based on 640,000 bags of daily rice consumption in the country.

Sioson further said that NFA should not be concerned of losses because it is a government agency with a social service mission. “They are in a position to subsidize,” he said.

He also slammed the Rice Tariffication Law and called for its abrogation, stressing the law only benefits the millers, traders, importers and smugglers.

He said the promised Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund did not really trickle down to the farmers because most of it went to farm mechanization and post harvest facilities.