[Protect rice and corn lands] Marcos Jr. urged to declare a moratorium on land conversion to ensure grains production and supply

Following Bongbong Marcos Jr’s intent to raise the domestic output of rice and corn, farmers urged the new Chief Executive to impose at least two years moratorium on land conversion to protect agricultural lands devoted to food production.

“To increase the yield and production of rice and corn, the government must first protect our agricultural lands.”

KMP’s Rafael Mariano, former DAR secretary, said it is imperative and urgent to protect and preserve agricultural lands, especially with the looming food crisis. Mariano proposes a two-year ban on the conversion of the following land classifications:  

> all awarded lands under Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, Presidential Decree 27, and other government agrarian reform laws
> agricultural lands with Notices of Coverage issued by the DAR
> irrigated and irrigable lands
> prime agricultural lands
> privately-owned lands with farmer-tenants
agricultural lands being cultivated by farmers, individually or collectively

“The DAR identified shrinking agricultural land as among the challenges faced by the sector. Issuing an EO prohibiting land-use conversion for at least two years will effectively protect more than 4.84 hectares of agricultural lands awarded to farmer-beneficiaries,” according to Mariano.

There was a draft Executive Order pending at the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council in 2016 but was eventually thumbed downed by the Duterte government.

Based on standing crop as of May 2022, the updated palay production for the period of April to June 2022 may increase to 4.23 MMT or by 1.4 percent from the same period last year. For corn, the updated estimate production for April to June 2022 is at 1.48 MMT based on standing crop.

“Monsoon season is about to start in a couple of months. The steadily rising cost of fertilizer and fuel persists to threaten production targets. The government must have a sound and long-term policy track to ensure the steady production and supply of our staple grains,” the peasant leader said.

KMP is supporting House Bill 405 or the Rice Industry Development Act of 2022 to improve the livelihood of rice farmers and attain food security based on self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

Mariano said RIDA is an actionable doable reform that will realize the availability of cheaper rice in the country while securing fair farm gate prices for rice farmers. According to consumer group Bantay Bigas, rice farmers lost more than P165 billion from 2019 to 2020 under the Rice Tariffication Law, as farm gate prices fell from P20.19 to P15.55 per kilo. ###

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