Implementation of Rice Tariffication Law burdens local farmers – Stakeholders

Marje Pelayo   •   July 11, 2019   •   881

MANILA, Philippines – A few months after the government began implementing the Rice Tariffication Law in March, the farm gate price of palay instantly went down.

Organic farmer and agrarian reform advocate Jaime Tadeo emphasized that the law hugely affects the prices of hybrid and brown rice.

He said the price of brown rice now ranges from P19 to P23/kg. from what used to be P25 to P30/kg.

“Medyo tinamaan ang magsasaka dahil ang dating napakagandang presyo medyo bumaba iyon, (The farmers were affected because the reasonable price they used to get has suddenly dropped),” Tadeo argued.

The reason for the price drop is because when supply of milled rice increases, the price automatically drops and this affects even the price of palay.

A retailer group, meanwhile, said that the new law may have minimal effect on them but they are more concerned about the farmers’ welfare.

 “Meron ngang safety nets ang gobyerno, ang NFA bibili parin ng P20.70/kg. Unfortunately, limited lang yung kanilang source, yung kanilang fund na ibebenta, (Even if the government has safety nets, the NFA still buys [rice from farmers] at P20.70/kg. Unfortunately, their source is limited as well as their funds),” noted Jaime Magbanua President of the Grains Retailers’ Associations of the Philippines (GRECON).

The group estimated that the price of regular milled rice may go down to as low as P30 to P32/kg and the effect of this will be mostly on local farmers.

“Ang presyo ng import hindi lalayo ang pinaka mababa 35 (pesos per kilo). Ang 32 (pesos per kilo) talaga mahihirapan sila halos wala naring kita sila doon, (The price of imported [rice] is not much different, the lowest being P35/kg. But with P32/kg, that’s burden (to farmers) because they earn nothing with that price,)” Tadeo said.

Retailers observed that canteen owners choose imported rice because of its commercial quality.

“Ang imported maalsa kaya mabili, (Imported rice is tastier so it’s more sellable),” said rice retailer Charing Doctor.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol once noted that the government needs to strengthen the country’s agriculture sector because rice supply in the global market is already depleting.

But for the farmers, the P10-B fund that the country will receive from tariffication of imported rice is not enough to support and achieve the country’s goal of making the agriculture industry sufficient.

“Napakaliit na lang noon. Kung hindi na mag-export ang Vietnam at Thailand at sila’y sapat na rin, saan tayo kukuha ng ngayon ng bigas? (That’s a small amount. If for instance, Viet Nam and Thailand stop exporting [rice] because they have enough, where else can we get rice?),” Tadeo concluded. – with details from Rey Pelayo

Senators grill NFA officials over ‘rotten rice’ in warehouse

Marje Pelayo   •   August 29, 2019

Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food chair Sen. Cynthia A. Villar asks Department of Agriculture (DA) officials led by DA Secretary William Dar where the P4 billion in funds that should have gone to programs for increasing the production of local farmers under the rice tariffication law went.  (Courtesy: Senate of the Philippines)

MANILA, Philippines – Senators expressed dismay over the National Food Authority (NFA) for not giving priority on buying local farmers yield.

During the hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food on Thursday (August 29), senators grilled the agency’s officials after receiving multiple reports from local farmers.

“Lahat ng tao sinisisi na kayo (The blame is on you),” Committee chair Senator Cynthia Villar said.

“Kapag pumupunta ako sa probinsya tinatanong ko: “Binilhan ba kayo ng NFA?” Sasabihin nila: “Hindi po kasi po mataas daw ang moisture content namin,” the senator said citing her conversation with farmers.

(Every time I went to the provinces, I would ask (the farmers): “Did NFA purchase your yield?” They would say: “No because of our palay’s high moisture content.)

Senator Imee Marcos, meanwhile, pressed the NFA to confirm the alleged millions of bags of rice being rotten inside one of the agency’s warehouses.

“Ipagtapat na natin ang totoo. Nine million bags pa ng imported rice ang nabubulok sa NFA na bodega kaya ayaw ninyong bumili ng local?,” the senator asked NFA Administrator Judy Dansal.

(Be honest. There are still nine million bags of imported rice now decaying in NFA warehouse, the reason why you do not procure from local farmers?)

Dansal confirmed Marcos’ claim though she corrected the figure to four million bags, not nine million.

Also present in the hearing are Senators Imee Marcos, Risa Hontiveros and Nancy Binay. (Courtesy: Senate of the Philippines)

The NFA officials asked the lawmakers to give them time to handle and resolve the matter in compliance with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte in line with the agency’s new mandate under the Rice Tariffication Act.

“Idedeklarang bulok tapos i-o-auction sa mga paboritong traders, huwag naman (They were declared spoiled then would you auction them to your favorite traders? That shouldn’t be done),” Marcos said.

“Hindi naman po. Sana bigyan niyo naman kami ng pagkakataon mayroon naman tayong new leadership. Hindi naman po tayo masama at di naman po kami nag bebenta ng bulok (Of course not. Please give us time to handle things under our new leadership. We are not bad people and we don’t sell rotten rice),” Dansal replied.

Meanwhile, Villar calls on concerned government agencies to expedite the distribution of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) so that local farmers will have a budget for purchasing farm equipment to improve their yield. – MNP (with details from Grace Casin)

Villar urges new DA acting chief to return P4 billion for rice fund

Robie de Guzman   •   August 6, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Cynthia Villar has urged new acting Agriculture Secretary William Dar to prioritize the return of the funds intended for the programs that will help increase farmers’ production under the Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tarrification Law.

Villar said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P5 billion last year for the enactment of the law creating the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Of the amount, only P1 billion went to RCEF’s program providing farmers access to cheap credit through Landbank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines, the senator said.

“Kahit sabihin pa nila na kaya ginastos iyon dahil hindi pa napapasa ang RCEF, dapat naghintay sila at hindi ginastos sa ibang bagay,” Villar said.

“I want DA to account for the remaining P4 billion and also to make sure that P4 billion will be immediately returned to RCEF,” she added.

Villar said the amount is needed to jumpstart the programs enumerated in the law, which was already delayed by the late approval of the 2019 General Appropriations Act.

RA 11203, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 14, 2019, replaced the quantitative restriction on rice imports with tariffs. The collected amount will be given to farmers to improve their competitiveness through RCEF.

Under RCEF, P5 billion will be allocated to the Philippine Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) for the procurement of farm equipment to be distributed to 947 rice-producing towns in the Philippines.

P3 billion will be allotted to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to teach farmers how to produce inbred seeds, which will increase their yield by up to 50 percent from 4 metric tons per hectare (MTN/ha) to 6 MTN/ha.

RCEF will also provide P1 billion for the creation of a credit facility with minimal interest rates and collateral requirements.

The remaining P1 billion is allocated to PhilMech, PhilRice, the Agriculture Training Institute and the Technical Skills Development Authority for farmers’ skills training.

With the appointment of William Dar as acting Agriculture chief, Villar expressed hope that the department will now be more supportive of the full implementation of the law and the return of P4 billion for rice fund will be prioritized.

NFA procures 1.26M sacks of palay from local farmers in Q1

Marje Pelayo   •   April 4, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The National Food Authority (NFA) has increased its procurement of local farmers’ yield in the first quarter of 2019 by 6,149% higher than last year.

According to the agency’s first quarter report, the NFA has procured a total of 1.26 million sacks of palay from local farmers, from January to March.

This is way higher from the mere 20,540 bags procured in the same period last year.

NFA Officer-in-Charge Tomas Escarez noted that the agency was able to offer a much more reasonable deal with the local farmers.

“We are not surprised though because March is the start of the summer crop harvest and we were able to capitalize on our higher incentives versus the low buying price of palay traders.

While traders reduced their buying price to as low as P14.00/ kilogram, we on the other hand increased our buying price up to P20.70/ kg for clean and dry palay,” Escarez said.

Based on the NFA data, highest palay procurement as of March 31 by the NFA branches were recorded in Tarlac, Isabela, Occidental Mindoro, North Cotabato, Nueva Ecija, Sultan Kudarat, Bulacan, Bataan, Cagayan and Ilocos Norte.

Meanwhile, Escarez said the agency is now preparing for more palay procurement in the next two months in view of the dry season.

NFA also increased its previous target of palay procurement from 7.78 million bags to 14.46 million bags for 2019.

This is in accordance with the NFA’s new functions under RA 11203 or the Rice Trade Liberalization Law.

“NFA will continue to serve our farmers by buying their produce to ensure a reasonable return for their harvest especially now that farmers are suffering from the effects of El Niño and private traders are buying low,” Escarez said.

According to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, the locally produced rice will be out in the market by August when the stocks of imported rice are expected to be consumed. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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