Rice farmers have pleaded to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to restore the regulatory powers of the National Food Authority to ensure ready market for their produce at higher rate while also assuring lower price for the poor.
In a statement, the Mabandi Multi Purpose Cooperative (MPC) in Pulong Bayabas, San Miguel, Bulacan and the Federation of Central Luzon Farmers Cooperative (FCLFC) also asked the president to raise farmgate price of clean and dry palay (unmilled rice) to P23 per kilo.
Palay buying direct from farmers used to be a major intervention of NFA prior to the of this function under the Rice Tariffication Law.
While “ayuda” (financial assistance) is given in cash, the farmers insisted they prefer to be treated with fairness and in a more business-proper manner. Ayuda is only given arbitrarily.
“Not everyone gets to receive ayuda. Only those that are close to those in power. But when palay price is raised to P23 per kilo at farmgate, that benefits all farmers,” said Atanacio Santos of the Mabandi MPC. Only 75 percent of farmers get to receive ayuda, said Santos.
The Philippines’ food security problems can be significantly solved if government assures farmers of this palay market. Providing a stable farmers’ market is a function that has been practiced by countries with progressive and profitable agriculture sector.
“Marcos should immediately implement the price increase, or ignoring farmers’ plea signals death of the rice sector. More farmers will be impoverished, and consumers will run out of food,” said Santos.
The increase to P23 per kilo already covers all costs of production including those for seeds, fertilizer, irrigation, according to Simeon Sioson, FCLFC chairman. Farmgate price has dropped to P18 to P19 per kilo and even hit a very low level at P10 to 14 per kilo. This has caused huge losses on farmers and compelled many farmers to give up tilling the land.
“The P23 per kilo farmgate price will cover all increases in costs in the market including those for the higher price of fertilizer now, diesel, and pesticides,” said Sioson.
But aside from farmers, the government will also be a big beneficiary since government can collect additional value added tax (VAT). Such additional VAT may then be used to subsidize the cost of rice for consumers. Prior to the RTL, the poor used to depend on cheap NFA rice for their staple.
“Now there is no more P27 per kilo NFA rice.”
Trade liberalization advocates stress NFA’s rice subsidy function for consumers renders it bankrupt, dependent on huge loans, and incompliant to free market principles.
But Danilo V. Fausto, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. president, said NFA is not supposed to be profit-making like private companies.
“NFA’s purpose is not to make a profit (but intervene and assist rice sector),” said Fausto.
But with the P23 per kilo farmgate price, government will even hit its targeted P20 per kilo price at consumers’ market– given government subsidizes rice price for all using the additional VAT it collects.
Sioson said government should strictly monitor the Philippines’ rice shortfall. This will prevent any excess in domestic rice volume that causes further rice competition to farmers.
“Importation only benefits farmers in Vietnam and Thailand. We should rather protect our farmers. Only the shortfall should be imported,” Sioson said.
Even government’s buffer stocking function for the lean months, with inventory level required is at 30 days, will be addressed through higher production from incentivized farmers.
Our rice sector will flourish. Everybody will be benefitted,” said Sioson.
Mabandi MPC and FCLFC also said government should take into consideration the many climate disturbances adversely are affecting farming.
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