BAGUIO

Domoguen: Save the nation’s rice farmers

Mountain Light

AFTER it became effective last March, the promised benefits of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) still elude its primary beneficiaries – the farmers and consumers.

So far, who benefits from its implementation?

At this point, your guess is as good as mine.

For the farmers, the harvest of rice this season is but bitter.

The implementation of the RTL devastated their current harvest. They have their reasons for believing it is the main culprit behind the low prices of palay.

On line, farmer groups have been airing their complaints against the “unlimited rice importation” made possible by the RTL.

Rice farmers from Central Luzon and other major growing areas of the country have been complaining that the price of palay has gone down to as low as P6.

The current price of palay is hardly enough to compensate for the cost of production, and provide sustenance for their families during the plowing and growing season, they said.

Prior to the effectivity of the tarrification of rice, the National Food Authority (NFA) bought palay from the farmers at P17.

The farmers are appealing to the nation to “Save the Farmers,” from the scourge of the RTL.

But it is not the farmers alone who are disappointed with the liberalization of the trading of rice.

As projected by the government’s economic team, the implementation of the RTL effectively liberalizing the market would result in a drop of rice prices to as low as P27 per kilo.

But rice prices in the local market remain high.

As of the second week of August, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that regular milled rice still retails at P38.4 per kilo, while well-milled rice is priced at P43.5 per kilo.

That is a significant drop compared to rice prices last year, but it is not low enough as expected.

I checked the rice prices today, September 15, before writing this article.

The prices of rice range from P40 to P42 for well-milled rice, and P45 to P100 for special rice.

Almost all the price tag and labels indicate that the rice came from Filipino farmers. I asked the traders what the word “local” on the price tag mean. It means the rice came from the farmers, they said.

If the price of palay from our farmers is very low and there is “unlimited rice importation” then why is it that the prices of rice in the market remain so high?

Something is amiss here.

As a national policy crafted by our lawmakers, I would not like to doubt or claim that the RTL is bad. If it is, I believe that our good lawmakers would not like Filipinos to continue suffering from the consequences of this law. They should amend it.

Even before he became Secretary of Agriculture last August 5, DA Secretary William (Manong Willy) Dar has been writing that the nation’s agricultural sector has been neglected for over 30 years.

His becoming Secretary smacks head-on into a myriad of problems affecting the agricultural sector.

He will have to make things work in a hurry and I heard him saying that the RTL is working.

That is understandable. Without a better policy, the RTL and its provisions is a tool available for him to use for the benefit of our rice farmers and we have to help him.

Immediately after taking the reign of power and authority, I have noted that Secretary Dar and his team have initiated necessary measures to address the concerns of rice farmers and consumers being compounded by neglect in agricultural development in production, marketing, processing, transport, research, technology, knowledge transfers, policy review, etc.

With the country’s economic team, the government rolled out the Sure Program for farmers tilling less than a hectare of land.

The NFA has also been mobilized to provide PHP 7 billion to procure rice from local farmers.

Earlier, Secretary Dar met with the Land Bank and Development Bank of the Philippines for the review and packaging of friendly and beneficial credit programs and windows to our farmers.

Hopefully, the effects and benefits of the measures initiated by Secretary Dar will be felt before the Christmas Season this year.

In the midst of these developments, it is heartening to know that Secretary Dar has not forgotten the rice terraces, a national heritage, on top of the enhanced and strengthened focus and attention by the DA on the nation’s top 10 major rice-producing provinces.

We will discuss more on this topic in the forthcoming series of this article.


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