THE National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) and rice watch group Bantay Bigas reiterated their call for the government to support farmers across the country amid the low farmgate prices of palay as a result of rice tarrification.
The two groups are demanding for higher support price by the National Food Authority (NFA), greater access of small-scale farmers to agricultural support services and subsidy and the implementation of free land distribution.
The Amihan and Bantay Bigas relayed these during the continuation of the Senate hearing on the effects of Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law Tuesday, September 3.
“Hindi sapat at hindi signipikanteng tulong ang credit assistance program. Bago pa ipatupad itong rice liberalization, lubog na sa utang ang mga magsasaka dahil wala silang pagkukunan ng puhunan. Magiging dagdag pagkakautangan lang itong SURE Aid (Expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance Program for Rice Farmers), pero sa esensiya wala kang binago sa umiiral na kalagayang bagsak ang presyo ng palay. Kung mananatiling P7-P10 kada kilo ng palay, mananatiling lubog sa utang ang mga magsasaka - walang kakayahang magbayad ng utang, at kapos sa pang-araw-araw na pangangailangan,” Amihan secretary general and Bantay Bigas Spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said.
Joseph Canlas, Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) chairperson, said farmers in Barangay Tabuam, Arayat town sell their recently harvested crops for only P6 per kilo.
“Halos hingin na lang ang palay. Kung dati ang magsasaka nagiging magsasako pagkatapos ng anihan, ngayon kahit sako wala nang matitira,” Canlas said.
“These farmers in Barangay Tabuan in Arayat, Pampanga were able to sell their recently harvested palay at only P6 per kilo while darak is at P12 per kilo,” he added.
The groups said NFA should be strengthened to allow greater procurement to at least P20 per kilo and ensure that sufficient and appropriate support services including farm inputs, irrigation and post-harvest facilities are accessible to small-scale farmers.
Ignacio Ortiz, AMGL-Nueva Ecija chairperson, said that P17 per kilo is not enough to support the needs of farmers and improve their impoverished conditions. “Yung buying price ng NFA na P17 kada kilo isang dekada nang nakapako habang yung gastos ng mga magsasaka ilang beses nang tumaas.”
Ortiz said that the cost of production last March 2019 is at P14.79 per kilo, including the interest paid for the farmers’ loan.
In a position paper submitted by the farmers group Danggayan (Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley), the P146 daily income of farmers in 2017 dropped to P45 per day when palay prices fell to P12 per kilo and even went down to a mere P2.40 per day as palay prices fell to P10 per kilo.
“Ang potensyal na mawawalang kita ay P6.95B taon-taon dahil sa pagbulusok ng presyo ng palay sa 139,000 ektaryang palayan sa rehiyon,” according to Danggayan.
The groups said that free land distribution should be prioritized to address the historical problem of the chronic rice crisis as land rent is an additional burden to the cost of production.
“Farmers’ landlessness due to land grabbing and land-use conversion as a result of various “development” projects makes the farmers more vulnerable to exploitation and displacement while the country’s food security is put into greater risk,” Estavillo said.
“Rice Liberalization Law is killing not only our farmers and their livelihood but the local rice industry and the agriculture sector. We are urging all rice stakeholders from various sectors to unite and join us as we call for the repeal of RA 11203 and the enactment of HB 477 (Rice Industry Development Act) and HB 239 (Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill),” Estavillo said.