Gov’t must heed public clamor vs. low palay prices, rice tariffication impact on rice farmers

As the economic managers remain stubborn on low palay prices, and the impact of rice tariffication law on farmers and the agriculture sector, rice farmers and stakeholders in the rice industry reiterated their demands to the Department of Agriculture and the National Food Authorities on how to address the current crisis of local rice production.

In an online press conference, palay farmers from rice-producing provinces including Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Iloilo, Albay, and South Cotabato maintained that palay prices remain low and far from DA and NFA’s claim of P19 per kilo farmgate and buying prices. Average palay prices in municipalities range from P12 to 14 pesos, which is just the equivalent of the retail price of an empty sack or a kilo of hog feed (darak). “Ang mga magsasaka naging magsasako na lang dahil sa sobrang baba ng presyo ng palay. The DA, NEDA, DOF and DTI are asking way too much with their appeal for public understanding on what they regard as just short-term effects of the RTL. It’s like asking for farmers to take their own lives while the government sort this hell of a mess caused by the RTL,” says Danilo Ramos, chairperson of KMP.

KMP blamed on the government and the RTL the perennially low palay prices, with average ranging from P12 to P14 in rice producing provinces and up to P10 in far-flung areas.

Ramos also scoffed at NEDA Socioeconomic Planning Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua for his clueless, almost insulting remarks on the plight and demand of rice farmers. Chua said that the RTL is a “game changer” and “pro-consumer” and that the policy has helped consumers tide over the effects of the pandemic. In an earlier remark, Chua further said that he will ask his staff in NEDA to evaluate why the agriculture sector is not picking up despite hundreds of billions of pesos of government funding. “Secretary Chua doesn’t know what he’s saying. His views about the rice farming and the state of farmers are so unrealistic.

“We advise Secretarily Chua to get out of his air conditioned office and try dipping his feet into rice paddies so he can feel a bit of what farmers are enduring,” Ramos said. The very meager production support received by farmers is not enough to bring down production cost to as low as P5 to P6 per kilo like in Vietnam and Thailand. Even the government estimate of P12 per kilo palay production cost have remained unchanged since 2012 and is not reflective of the inflationary costs from the TRAIN Law passed in 2018. Current production cost, factoring all conditions, expenses, and even inflation, would range from at least P15 per kilo.

KMP also criticized once more the Department of Agriculture (DA) for saying that retail rice prices have lowered as a result of RTL. “Even the NFA doesn’t sell its P27 per kilo of regular milled rice anymore. Ang presyo ng bigas ngayon ay nasa P32 pataas na. Wala lang NFA rice sa mga palengke. Average rice prices as of September are at P42.24/kg or almost the same for the same period last year.

“Hindi na maghihintay ng limang taon pa ang mga magbubukid para maramdaman ang sinasabi ng gobyerno na magandang epekto ng rice tariffication. Aanihin pa ang damo, kung patay na ang kabayo? Kailangan na ireview at ibasura ang RTL,” says Ramos.

KMP, AMIHAN and peasant organizations will launch daily actions outside the DA office this week to press farmers’ demands. ###

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