THE National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) and rice watch group Bantay Bigas reiterated its call for the review and repeal of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law, as palay farmgate prices continue to drop weeks before the peak of harvest season.
Based on PSA data, the average farmgate price of dry palay went down from P19.16 per kilo for the last week of May to P18.39 per kilo for mid-August. Current prices of wet/fresh palay are at P13-14 in Isabela and Nueva Ecija.
Amihan and Bantay Bigas urged the Department of Agriculture to increase palay procurement to help local rice farmers.
“NFA should buy palay for at least P20 per kilo to ease the farmers’ burden on the rising cost of production and the impact of pandemic. Dapat bilhin din ng NFA kahit mga bagong aning palay lalo pa at limitado ang access ng mga magsasaka sa mechanical dryers kaya mas lalong nababarat ng mga rice traders,” Cathy Estavillo, Amihan secretary-general and Bantay Bigas spokesperson, said.
DA in its earlier statement said that it still has P10 billion which could be used for palay procurement. This could buy 500,000 MT of palay (more than 300,000 MT of rice) at P20 per kilo.
“Malinaw na noon pang nakaraang taon na ang pagbagsak ng presyo ng palay ay direktang epekto ng Rice Liberalization Law. We have repeatedly warned against the impact of rice liberalization on our farmers and the local rice industry. For the past 19 months of RLL, the income of rice farmers have been plundered by big rice traders engaged in importation and marketing while pro-liberalization bureaucrats claim benefits of lower prices, undermining the harmful effect to national food self-sufficiency and self-reliance in the long term,” Estavillo said.
Amihan and Bantay Bigas stated that an estimated P75 billion was lost from the rice farmers in 2019 due to depressed farmgate prices caused by RA 11203 Rice Liberalization Law.
The groups led the petition signing calling for the repeal of RA 11203 in 2019. Around 50,000 signatures were submitted to Congress and Senate in September and November.
“Hangga’t nananatili ang RLL bilang batas at hindi tinutugunan ang mga problema para tunay na pag-unlad ng lokal na industriya ng bigas para sa pagtitiyak ng sapat, ligtas at abot-kayang presyo ng bigas, magiging paulit-ulit lamang itong problema sa bagsak na presyo ng palay at pagkalugi ng mga magsasaka,” Estavillo added.
“Even under the pandemic, the government denied the rice farmers of due support to pump-prime the rice industry and secure the food requirements of the country. We owe this to the next generation of Filipinos,” said. (SunStar Pampanga)