Dar to speed up rice competitiveness program
MANILA, Philippines — Barely 24 hours after his appointment, Agriculture Secretary William Dar immediately dealt with the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program (RCEP) which has so far failed to ease the adverse impact of rice imports on local rice farmers.
On his first press conference on Tuesday, Dar said he wanted to “right and accelerate” the implementation of the RCEP during the first 100 days of his term, and improve the sector’s growth rate to 3 percent over the next three years.
The RCEP provides a P10-billion rice competitiveness enhancement fund (RCEF) as financial aid to farmers. It also finances the government’s farm modernization programs to make farmers more competitive, and counter the negative impact of the rice tariffication law.
Dar blamed “high production cost, limited cropping diversification, low productivity and volatile commodity prices” for the low income of farmers and fisherfolk.
He said he was not happy with the sector’s anemic growth. Last year, the industry grew by only 0.98 percent, lower than its average 1.1 percent growth over the past decade.
Dar said the sector’s growth could be accelerated by boosting support to local food production and strengthening the industry’s agribusiness component by bringing in the private sector.
The new agriculture chief also made it clear that he opposes any review of the rice tariffication law, adding that stakeholders should give it time to be implemented.
“Our rice farmers are already waiting for the RCEF,” Dar said, adding that the delay in the budget release of the RCEF has stalled its implementation.
The farmers’ group Kilusan para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan) welcomed Dar’s appointment as a “breath of fresh air.” —With a report from Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
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