ILOILO – To help farmers overcome the deluge of imported rice that has caused prices to drop, the National Food Authority (NFA) has been urged to set up palay buying stations in each town of the province.
According to Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Matt Palabrica, NFA itself announced it was ready to buy palay (should be clean and dry with 14 percent moisture content and 95 purity) from local farmers at the following maximum prices: P20.40/kg for individual farmer and P20.70/kg for cooperatives/organizations.
But there’s a problem, said Palabrica. NFA does not have many palay buying stations in the province.
The stations are in four points only: the NFA main office in Jaro, Iloilo City and in the municipalities of Dumangas, Pototan and San Dionisio.
“It is much better if NFA has buying stations in all municipalities. This way it could reach out to a lot of farmers, especially those who have difficulty transporting their produce,” said Palabrica.
Local governments may also subsidize farmers and buy palay from them, he added.
Citing his own sources, Palabrica said the price of rice has dropped to as low as P7 a kilo and this could further sink this rice harvest season.
An unprofitable low price of rice would mean losses to farmers as they won’t be able to recover their expenses in producing the staple.
Agriculture secretary William Dar said NFA will speed up the “turnaround” of palay-rice stocks by up to four times, which will create a multiplier effect.
He also tasked the grains agency to focus and intensify palay-buying in areas where prices are low.
Dar also divulged that the Department of Agriculture (DA) will be forging a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to buy NFA rice to be given to Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P) beneficiaries nationwide in lieu of the P600 monthly rice cash allowance.
Dar said he has formed a Crisis Management Task Force on Rice to facilitate implementation of identified measures in relation to the drop of palay prices, and other appropriate measures.
While farmers have blamed the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) for the drop of palay prices to as low as P6 to P10 per kilo, he noted that hoarders have manipulated rice prices.
“When the RTL was being finalized, that season binagsak na nila ang presyo ng palay. Paano mo ma-a-attribute sa RTL ‘yan?” Dar said.
“May nagsasamantala and we will apply the full force of the law,” he stressed./PN