Farmers are seeking an increase in the buying price of paddy rice or palay by the government to P23 per kilogram (kg) to augment farmers’ income and encourage the attainment of self-sufficiency in rice production.
In a forum organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. (PCAFI) Friday, farmer leader Sonny Sioson said increasing the price of palay is key to helping the agriculture sector survive market challenges.
“This is the only way for agriculture to survive, for farmers to have a decent income and for the economy to flourish. Increasing the buying price will encourage a new a new generation of rice farmers as this will be the government’s guarantee for a better agriculture industry,” he said.
Sioson. chairman of Central South Luzon Rice Farmers Cooperatives, said farmers are longing for a more stable and equitable support price.
He said some farmers till an average of three to four hectares only, with income ranging from P90,000 to P110,000 per cropping, and for those tilling less than three hectares, many are earning less than P90,000 per cropping.
Sioson said farmers will make sure that the palay sold to the government will be cleaned and dried with a moisture content of 14 percent, 95 percent purity, and guaranteed 65 percent recovery when milled.
Many rice traders are taking advantage of fresh harvest palay, buying them from farmers for as low as P8/kg, especially from the farmlands in the Bicol region.
Sioson said there was a time when the National Food Authority (NFA) bought palay from farmers at P20.70/kg, during the term of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol. That was the all-time highest buying price.
However, the NFA’s buying price dropped to P19/kg during the term of Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
While the proposed budget for the agriculture sector is at P181 billion for 2023, PCAFI is seeking to double spending on dairy production and allot a decent budget for creating a vibrant salt manufacturing industry.
PCAFI president Danilo Fausto said despite the country’s long shoreline, the country imports over 93 percent of its salt requirement.
“It’s funny that we are importing salt when we are an archipelago with 35,000 kilometers of shoreline. With that we can be self-sufficient in salt instead of importing from Australia and China,” he said.
At Friday’s Cabinet meeting, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. focused on how the government could assist agrarian reform beneficiaries, including condoning payments of amortizations on loans, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said.
She said the administration is also looking at providing legal help for land disputes, as well as credit assistance and modern farm equipment.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), meanwhile, said the government is committed to ensuring food security and affordability, and reducing transport and logistics costs to arrest the rise of inflation and protect Filipino consumers.
The statement came as the Philippine Statistics Authority reported Friday that the country’s inflation rate for July 2022 rose to 6.4 percent, a 45-month high.
“In our near-term socioeconomic agenda, we want to ensure that there’s sufficient and healthy food on the table of every Filipino. We are also helping reduce energy, transport, and logistics costs, especially for vulnerable sectors of our population. It is our urgent priority to ease price pressures and protect the public’s purchasing power through the implementation of programs that will help Filipinos cope with the effects of the higher inflation rate,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said.
“To boost local food production, the government will continue to support the agriculture sector through lower input costs, development of new farming technologies, the extension of financial assistance to farmers, and strengthening the agricultural value chain. These can be achieved through the Plant, Plant, Plant Program 2, the government’s P24-billion flagship program on food security, which provides subsidy and support to the agriculture sector,” Balisacan said.
“We have started the preparations for the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 and are mindful of the eight-point socioeconomic agenda that includes increasing agricultural and industrial productivity and building resilience against external shocks,” Balisacan added.
Also on Friday, Senator Christopher Go said there was a need to ramp up support for farmers and fishers to ensure the country’s food security.
“It is critical that we support our farmers and fishers. To ensure that those in rural areas have equitable prospects for development, we must continue to strengthen agricultural support systems and infrastructure,” he said.
Go cited Republic Act 11901, which mandates all banking institutions, except newly established banks, to set aside at least 25 percent of their total loanable funds for agricultural and fisheries-related sectors after they have been operating for five years.
The total loanable funds generated by a banking institution will be defined by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.