Farmers to gov’t: Help us, we’ll give rice
A representative of the farming sector told the House Committee on Appropriations on Monday that they “can” and “want” to sell their products to the National Food Authority (NFA) at a lower price than what rice traders offer.
However, they find this difficult because the money they used to fund their farming activities was loaned from the rice traders themselves, making them indebted to the private sector.
“Una sa lahat ‘yong magsasaka ‘pag nagtanim ‘yon, mangungutang. Wala namang mayamang magsasaka, nangutang siya ng pantustos para sa palayan niya,” NFA Council member Edwin Paraluman said during the agency’s budget hearing.
“‘Pag harvest, hindi talaga makabili ang NFA doon. Bakit? Eh naka-tali na siya doon sa nagpahiram sa kanya ng pera […] doon pa rin niya ibenta sa trader kasi doon siya nangungutang,” he explained.
Paraluman’s statement was an answer to questions from the members of the committee, on why NFA cannot compete with private traders. According to him, the government should support farmers if it wants to secure its food supply.
“Paano mabili ng magsasaka ‘yon (equipment)? Kasi kaming mga small farmers, we are not bankable, di naman kami nakaka-utang sa bangko. Kung may mga malalaking cooperative naman […] bago ma-release ‘yong loan nila, magha-harvest na sila, paano mo mapakain ng tama ‘yong pamilya mo?” he asked.
He asked that government subsidize the expenses of small-time farmers, saying that in other countries, their national agencies support the agriculture sector.
“When I was in Indonesia, nagtanong ako ‘don sa mga farmers nila, anong tulong ng gobyerno sa inyong magsasaka? Sabi nila libre kami ng abono, libre kami ng chemical, mechanization, libre kami,” he noted.
“Pilipinas, anong libre sa amin? Of course, DA (Department of Agriculture), namimigay ng libreng semilya na hybrid. So hindi makabili ang NFA kasi direkta na ‘yan sa nagpahiram ng pera, ano pang magagawa mo ‘don?” he asked.
After Paraluman’s statements, Committee chair Rep. Karlo Nograles and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate alleged that NFA was biased toward importing rice from other countries.
“Based on the COA report, shortfall tayo sa procurement ng palay, which is the primary function of the NFA, to support the local farmers, pero 100 percent po tayo sa imported rice,” Nograles told NFA officials.
“Kumbaga may natural bias ang NFA sa imported rice, que sa sa local palay,” he claimed.
For Zarate, the issue about the NFA offering a low price for farmers, estimated at around P17 per kilo, was an old issue already.
“Aminin na natin, talagang kaya ayaw taasan ‘yong procurement price dahil bias ng pamahalaan ay importation,” Zarate dared officials.
“Noon pa ‘yan, dahil napakaraming dahilan siguro bakit gusto nating mag-import, buhayin ‘yong mga magsasaka sa ibang bansa, kesa ‘yong ating mga sariling magsasaka,” he said in jest. /vvp
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