Cash transfer for farmers hurt by low prices looms

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DAGUPAN CITY—Agriculture industry leaders have asked Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman to include small landholding farmers in the agency’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program amid the decline in farm incomes because of low prices of local rice.

Oftociano Manalo, head of the Ilocos Region Confederation of Irrigators Association, said farmers’ groups and agriculture industry stakeholders in Pangasinan, Isabela and Nueva Ecija met with Soliman on Wednesday to discuss their situation.

He said Soliman had promised to meet with Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to push the CCT program for farmers.

“Many rice farmers are already complaining about the low prices of palay. Rice millers cannot buy their produce because their warehouses are still stocked and they have no more money to buy the newly harvested palay. Some are planning to plant only what is enough for their consumption,” Manalo said.

The meeting was also attended by Abono partylist chair Rosendo So and former Pangasinan Representatives Conrado Estrella III and Mark Cojuangco.

In a statement, Abono said farmers, who are expected to earn only less than P1,800 a month or P60 a day, will no longer plant rice for the next cropping season, unless the government agrees to include them in the CCT.

It said the farmers’ economic condition this year is worse than last year’s when they sold their palay at P17.20 a kilogram or a net income of P4,000 a month.

This year, Abono said rice farmers are expected to sell their palay for as low as P14 a kg, meaning they will be selling their palay at a loss of P3.20 a kg.

Abono said a manifesto sent to Alcala by farmers, rice millers, retailers and other allied agricultural groups calling for an expansion of the CCT program would help cushion the impact of foreign rice shipments.

The group said for one harvest season, farmers usually have a gross return of P60,000 for five months, with the price of palay at P17.20 a kg. Minus cropping expenses of about P40,000, that leaves farmers at least P4,000 a month, it said.

“But nobody is buying because warehouses are still full,” said Abono. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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