THE chairman of the House committee on appropriations said yesterday the decision of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to increase the buying price of clean and dry palay by three pesos per kilo “is a welcome relief for farmers who are worried about the effects of the government’s decision lifting the quantitative restriction (QR) for the importation of rice.”
Apart from increasing the buying price of palay, Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, the panel chairman, said the DA, through the National Food Authority (NFA), should now “exclusively buy locally produced rice for its buffer stocks in order to prevent the economic dislocation of tens of thousands of Filipino rice farmers as a result of the lifting of the QR.”
Nograles said the last time the NFA had increased its buying price of palay from local farmers was 10 years ago.
Since then, he said the NFA has given preference to rice importation to fill up its buffer stocks.
Last Friday, Agriculture Sec. Emmanuel Piñol signed the Memorandum Circular implementing the Buffer Stock Incentive (BSI), which increases the NFA’s buying of clean and dry palay to 20.70 pesos per kilo from its previous rate of 17.70 pesos per kilo.
Piñol said this nationwide adjustment of the buying price of palay would cover 37 provinces with surplus rice production.
“I’m really happy that immediately after President Duterte placed the NFA under the Department of Agriculture, Secretary Piñol’s first directive was to increase the NFA’s buying price of clean and dry palay from our farmers,” said Nograles.
“Now at least, the NFA’s mandate is now in sync with the mandate of the DA which is to provide support for our farmers to increase agricultural productivity,” added Nograles.
“With the expected flooding of cheap imported rice in the country it would become close to impossible for our local farmers to compete, unless they get help from the government. Walang ibang bibili ng palay sa ating mga magsasaka kundi ang ating pamahalaan kapag sobrang baba na ang presyo ng bigas sa merkado,” Nograles stressed.
Nograles said with the liberalization of rice importation, the country’s rice production is expected to slow down even more, unless the government intervenes through incentives and improved economic opportunities for the country’s rice farmers.
He said funds raised from taxes on rice imports should be used to subsidize higher buying price for palay from local farmers and to provide all the necessary support to bring down the cost of farm inputs and to increase production.
“Many of our local rice farmers might just stop planting rice and shift to other crops if we do not buy their produce. This will be tragic because rice farming is the foundation of Philippine agriculture. Rice farming is part of our culture,” said the legislator.
“Also, given our country’s growing population, rice consumption will continue to grow, and we cannot be wholly dependent on imported rice. We have to keep on finding ways to boost rice production so that the bulk of rice needed to feed the country is produced here,” said Nograles.