A Catholic bishop from the country’s rice granary called on the government to “listen to the cry” of farmers suffering income loss from the flood of rice imports.
Cabanatuan Bishop Sofronio Bancud said concrete measures are needed to address the woes of the farmers who are struggling to compete with imported rice.
“My appeal to the government, to those who really care and pro-farmers; they should listen to the cry of these farmers,” he said.
The bishop urged the concerned agencies to examine the current state of the country’s 2.4 million rice farmers due to the low 35-percent tariff under the rice tariffication law.
Farmers are crying for help as prices of palay or unmilled rice dropped to as low as P7 per kilo with the implementation of the new law.
Some of them, particularly those from Northern Luzon, are already considering leaving their rice fields or sell their land if the buying price of palay will continue to plunge.
“It’s very low, and it’s almost like giving away their harvest,” Bancud lamented.
In July, the average farm-gate price of palay was still at P17.76 a kilo.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Feb. 14 approved the law that allowed the liberalization of the rice industry to make the staple food more affordable to Filipinos.
The economic research group Ibon Foundation had warned that the law will only make things worse for the farmers.
The agriculture department has offered P15,000 loan assistance to help the affected rice farmers, with zero-interest and is payable for up to eight years.
But the prelate said the measure is not enough to support farmers, one of the poorest sectors.
“How can they pay the loan, especially the small farmers?” he said.