Low palay prices hurt NegOcc farmers

BACOLOD. These farmers at Barangay Dulao in Bago City, the rice granary of Negros Occidental, are among those affected by the prevailing low buying price of palay among traders in the country with the implementation of rice tariffication law. (Photo by Erwin P. Nicavera)

FARMERS in Negros Occidental are not spared from the prevailing effects of rice tariffication law as the plunge in prices of palay (unhusked rice) is also hurting them.

Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino said the buying price of palay among traders has dropped to an average of P13 to P14 per kilogram from the previous P18 to P20 per kilogram.

Masculino said the harvest season in the province has yet to peak thus, like other provinces in the country, the prices here might also continue to drop up to P7 to P10 per kilogram.

“It is something to worry about. If there’s no intervention from the government, the palay prices may continue to shrink considering that the harvest season has just started,” he added.

The provincial agriculturist stressed that Negros Occidental with at least 64,000 hectares of rice farms, “every peso drop in price would result in at least P200 million losses for our farmers.”

“Worse, calamities like typhoons might hit the province during this harvest season resulting in possible additional production losses,” Masculino added.

In February, President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law the measure lifting restrictions on rice importation.

Duterte certified the rice tariffication bill as urgent in October 2018 in a bid “to address the urgent need to improve availability of rice in the country, to prevent artificial rice shortage, reduce the prices of rice in the market, and curtail the prevalence of corruption and cartel domination in the rice industry.”

A month after the President certified the measure as urgent, a report on the bill was ratified by the bicameral conference committee.

Under the rice tariffication bill, quantitative restrictions on rice importation are lifted and private traders are allowed to import the commodity from countries of their choice.

So, it paved the way for the unbridled flow or entry of imported rice in the country by removing the import quota and setting a higher tariff.

Also, the law created a Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) amounting to P10 billion intended to provide safety nets for local farmers through the provision of better farming tools, seeds, and other interventions that will improve productivity.

Local farmers are calling for the efficient utilization of the fund to lessen the adverse effects of tariffication.

Masculino said aside from utilizing the fund, the government might also look at the possibility of increasing the tariff on imported rice to protect local farmers.

The provincial agriculturist said he will discuss the situation with Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson and Department of Agriculture (DA) in Western Visayas Regional Director Remelyn Recoter.

They will also tap the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) for possible financial assistance to rice farmers.

“Just like in Nueva Ecija where it (LBP) extended loans to local government units,” Masculino added.


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