Farmers to DA: No exaggeration in low palay prices, Rice Liberalization to blame for unending woes

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) gave reaction to Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s statement that the reported P10/kilo palay price is an exaggeration. 

“By saying that current ‘palay prices are okay’ Secretary Dar is invalidating the actual plight and grievances of rice farmers. The P10/kg palay price was the lowest recorded this season. The prevailing palay prices remain low at an average of P12 to P13 — still way below the average production cost of P15/kg,” according to KMP chairman emeritus Rafael Mariano. Fertilizer prices remain high for farmers reeling from high production and livings costs. 

Mariano said the reasonable demand of farmers for palay buying price is at P20/kg and higher. Malayo pa rin ang P14 o kahit P17/kg para makabawi o kumita man lang ang mga magsasaka. Sa baba ng presyo ng palay ngayon, talagang lugi at umiiyak ang mga magsasaka, says Mariano, adding that the DA and NFA’s P19/kg buying price is for clean and dry palay. Monsoon season po tayo ngayon at napakahirap magpatuyo ng palay. He said many farmers and local farmers’ associations do not have mechanical dryers.

Palay prices are expected to remain low in the coming weeks with the cumulative effects of typhoons and importation even during the harvest season. There are 127 importers and traders importing rice from 13 countries including Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, China, India, Italy, Pakistan, among others. The Philippines remain the second-largest importer of rice next to China. 

The group said massive rice importation, resulting from the Duterte regime’s Rice Liberalization Law persists to hurt palay farmers. “RLL changed the situation of the domestic rice industry for the worse. Local farmers are at a disadvantage with imported rice coming from Vietnam and Thailand with production costs of P6.22/kg, and P8.86/kg respectively. Rice liberalization plunged Filipino farmers into deeper debt and poverty,” Mariano said. 

The former representative and agrarian reform secretary said that DA also needs to divulge the latest data on the collection and utilization of RCEF — the annual P10-billion fund for the improvement of the domestic rice industry’s competitiveness. Secretary Dar is looking at early procurement for RCEF programs for 2022. In light of the many woes besetting rice farmers, the public needs to know how RCEF has helped in improving yield, reducing production costs, and cutting post-harvest losses. Up to now, the majority of farmers have not received any production support, and ayuda, two years into the pandemic.

KMP is still pressing DA to act on the exorbitant fertilizer and pesticide prices affecting palay farmers. ###

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