ROSALES, Pangasinan—The government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, also known as the Pantawid Pampamilyang Pilipino program, should also serve farmers who have been marginalized by rice smuggling, a party-list group said here.
“If the government could not stop smuggling, then it should do something to help the farmers who are struggling to produce the staple food, by including them in the CCT program,” said Rosendo So, chair of the party-list group Abono.
The CCT provides up to P1,400 in monthly stipend to poor families surveyed by the National Household Targeting System, provided they keep their first three children in school. The program also requires poor families to make sure the children undergo regular medical examination at the nearest government health facility.
According to So, qualified CCT families receive P5,600 for four months, which is equivalent to a full palay cropping season.
He said if farmers get the stipend for four months, the amount could essentially be a subsidy of P1.55 per kilo of palay, if P5,600 is divided by 3,500 kg (the average yield for one hectare).
In this case, the CCT would help keep the price of domestic rice down and make smuggled rice unaffordable, he said.
“Instead of P5,600, we are asking the government for a subsidy of P10,000 for every hectare tilled by the marginalized farmers, which would reduce the price of a sack of rice to P1,180, and eventually kill smuggling,” he said.
Abono president Ponciano Onia, a farmer, said, the price of newly harvested, ready-to-mill palay has gone down to P16 a kilo for dry, ready to mill grain. The price of still to be dried palay has plummeted to P13 to P14.
“Harvest time is not even full-blast yet. If the harvest goes full-blast in March, the prices will surely drop further. This means that farmers will earn nothing as farmers spend P13 to produce a kilo of palay,” Onia said.
Prices of palay are way below P19 to P19.50 a kilo in February last year as there was no smuggled rice flooding the local markets, he said.
In an earlier statement, So said smuggled rice has flooded the market, reaching Nueva Ecija, Baguio City, Pangasinan, La Union and even Isabela, the country’s rice granary.
He said if the government cannot curb rice smuggling, it should increase the volume of paddy rice that the National Food Authority is buying this year to help farmers who were hurt by the rice glut.
The NFA has allotted P10.9 billion for the procurement of 615,985 metric tons of palay from farmers this year. “That’s a mere 3 percent of the total harvest. If the government is really serious in helping farmers, they must increase the volume to 30 percent or at least P105 billion worth of palay,” he said.
The total rice harvest this year is projected at 20.4 million metric tons, which would translate into P351 billion worth of grain. Inquirer Northern Luzon