THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has ordered the National Food Authority (NFA) to expand its procurement of palay, or unmilled rice, to help prop up weak farmgate prices.
During a visit to an NFA warehouse in Tarlac City on Sept. 14, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar also told rice farmers that they will be assisted in transporting their crop from their farms.
“We will continue to buy palay as high as P19 per kilogram, at 14% moisture content, from our farmers to assure them of bigger earnings, and if need be pick up their produce at a designated area in their barangay,” Mr. Dar said.
“We have instructed NFA offices nationwide, through NFA Administrator Judy Carol L. Dansal, to offer transport services for farmers who cannot deliver their produce to the agency’s warehouses, and likewise avail of its drying facilities,” he added.
The NFA with a buying price of P19 intervenes in the market if farmers cannot get good prices from private traders. However, it does not have enough funds or storage space to buy the entire harvest.
NFA Region III Director Elvira Cruz Obana said the regional office plans to purchase almost 1.75 million bags of palay from Central Luzon farmers between September and the end of the year.
Mr. Dar also instructed the NFA to immediately mill the palay and sell it to local government units or the Department of Social Welfare and Development and roll over the funds received to buy more from farmers.
He also asked the governors of the top 12 rice-producing provinces to assist the NFA in purchasing palay directly from farmers.
The provinces are Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Iloilo, Camarines Sur, Tarlac, Negros Occidental, Maguindanao, Bukidnon, North Cotabato, and Leyte. These provinces produced more than 9.74 million metric tons (MT) of palay, equivalent to more than 50% of the country’s total rice harvest at 18.8 million MT, in 2019.
“Their direct procurement will significantly shore up the national average farmgate price of palay, thus helping more farmers,” Mr. Dar said.
Separately, farmer organization Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) estimated that it will take about P152 billion to purchase the entire harvest, noting the inadequacy of NFA funding.
SINAG Chairman Rosendo O. So said farmers are facing a “dire” situation due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the entry of imports as a result of Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.
“The NFA has P7 billion to buy palay. If they can roll over the funds, it is P14 billion at best. That amount can only procure 736,842 MT of palay if priced at P19 per kilogram. We are expecting to harvest around nine million MT. At best, that budget is only good for 8.2% of the country’s total palay harvest,” Mr. So said.
“The DA must first forge a deal with rice farmers that they will buy all the palay that will be harvested this coming weeks and months, if only for the rice farmers to survive this cropping season and the Rice Tariffication Law,” he added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave