THE Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women and rice watch group Bantay Bigas urged the National Food Authority (NFA) to reconsider the 14 percent moisture content requirement to accommodate more rice farmers and ramp up its palay procurement.
"Maraming magsasaka ang walang access sa mechanical dryers kaya nga kadalasan sa mga kalsada sila nagbibilad ng palay. Ngayong tag-ulan, lalong mahirap magpatuyo ng palay kaya napipilitan silang magbenta sa mga private traders kahit pa sa napakababang presyo. Sa realidad, limitado talaga ang mabibili ng NFA dahil sa mataas nitong requirements na naglilimita mga magsasaka," Amihan secretary general and Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said.
"NFA should also ensure that buying and rolling stations are available in rice farming communities to ease the farmers' burden on transportation costs. Dagdag pa sa hindi na nila kailangan pang pumila nang ilang araw sa mga warehouse para magbenta ng palay," Estavillo added.
Amihan and Bantay Bigas said the Department of Agriculture and NFA address these problems immediately as palay farmgate price started to drop weeks before the peak of harvest season.
Based on reports gathered by Amihan and Bantay Bigas, farmgate price of fresh palay is currently at P13-P14 per kilo in Nueva Ecija, Isabela and Cagayan and P11-P12 per kilo in Iloilo and Capiz.
The groups are also calling for an additional budget for NFA to boost its palay procurement to at least 20 percent of total local production.
"Farmers have already been suffering from bankruptcy for two to three harvest seasons due to the drop in palay farmgate price as a result of the RA 11203 Rice Liberalization Law. It is unjust for our 'food security frontliners' to appeal and beg for government support every harvest season," Estavillo said.
Ensuring the country's food security through self-sufficiency should be a priority especially during the pandemic including providing the necessary support for farmers, she added.
"Our experience for more than a year under a liberalized rice trade has clearly proven that local farmers are the biggest losers. Even the P10 billion RCEF cannot outweigh the P75-80 billion lost by farmers on the law's first year of implementation alone," Estavillo said.
"We reiterate our demand to review and repeal the RA 11203 to prevent further damage to the local rice industry. We urge our lawmakers to heed the call of more than 50,000 farmers, workers, urban poor, women, youth and other sectors who signed the petition calling for the repeal of Rice Liberalization Law," she added.
The groups led the petition signing calling for the repeal of RA 11203 last year. 50,000 signatures were submitted to Congress and Senate last September and November.
Amihan and Bantay Bigas are pushing for the enactment of the HB 477 or Rice Industry Development Act and HB 239 Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill filed by the Makabayan bloc. Gabriela Women's Party Representative Arlene Brosas has also filed HB 476 seeking the repeal of RA 11203.