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P15B eyed to prop up local rice prices

Fifty-four congressmen on Thursday filed a joint resolution seeking P15 billion more to allow the National Food Authority (NFA) to help farmers adversely affected by the rice tariffication law.

Joint House Resolution No. 18 also seeks to direct the NFA to use the amount to procure at least 750,000 metric tons of palay from local farmers at a farm gate price of P20 per kilo and sell the NFA rice to consumers at P27 per kilo.

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The measure seeks to mitigate “the dire impact of Republic Act No.  11203, or the Rice Tariffication and Liberalization Act.”

Opened the floodgates

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“RA 11203 opened the floodgates for the massive importation of rice, leading to a sharp decline in palay prices and consequently into huge losses in the income of farmers,” the resolution read.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the lawmakers said the average farm gate price of palay has hit its lowest in more than two years, supposedly as cheap imported rice surpassed 1.3 million metric tons during the first half of 2019 following the implementation of RA 11203.

“Estimates from Bantay Bigas and farmers’ groups point to dismal crash in palay prices, with some regions such as Central Luzon reporting farm gate price levels at P11 per kilo or even P7 in some areas,” the resolution said, principally authored by Gabriela  Rep. Arlene Brosas.

According to the House resolution, Filipino farmers have lost around P40 billion during the first half of 2019, supposedly due to the “huge drop” in palay prices, based on data from the Federation of Free Farmers.

Loans are not aid

According to lawmakers, the P1 billion allocated for the expanded rice credit assistance under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund  is “certainly not enough” to aid farmers,

“This is notwithstanding the fact that it requires minimum collateral and imposes minimum interest rates,” they said.

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In addition, the Expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance Program for Rice Farmers of the Department of Agriculture amounting to P1.5 billion will only provide each farmer P15,000 in the form of zero-interest loans, according to the resolution.

100,000 out of 2.4M

This program will only cover 100,000 rice farmers out of the total estimated 2.4 million rice farmers, they said.

Under the P7-billion budget for buffer stocking for 2019, the NFA can only purchase 350,000 metric tons or 7 million sacks of palay from local farmers at P20 per kilo farm gate price, the House members said.

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TAGS: Agriculture, Farmers, National Food Authority, NFA, Palay
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