NOVEMBER 20, 2019 – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Agriculture (DA) to suspend rice importation and buy palay from local farmers, but the directive came too late, a rice watch group said on Wednesday.
Bantay Bigas Spokesperson Zen Soriano said the harvest season is already done and farmers had already incurred losses with the implementation of the rice tariffication law.
“Tapos na po ang amihan eh, hindi na sila makakabili ngayon,” she said in an interview with Radyo Singko’s Early All Ready.
“Ang problema ngayon ay pagtatanim na naman. Wala nang puhunan ang magsasaka kasi nabili na nang murang-mura ang kanilang mga palay.”
Rice is the country’s staple and among the sensitive farm products heavily protected by Southeast Asian countries moving into freer trade and economic integration.
Several farmers’ groups have blamed the law for the decline in farm gate prices of palay at P7 to 12 per kilo from the P17-20 per kilo last year.
The law lifted quantitative restrictions on rice imports that were replaced with tariffs.
“Lugi na. Kaya huli na ‘yung sorry ni Pangulong Duterte. Ang kailangan niyang tugunan paano makakapagtanim ulit ng palay ang mga magsasaka,” Soriano said.
Duterte on Tuesday night suggested buying local palay produce even if the government loses billions to help farmers in their livelihood.
He said there was no other remedy as he cannot stop the law, which he said helped prevent corruption.
“Babawi sila. Hindi na bale. Gagastos tayo bilyon? Bilihin natin. Tapos wala, palugi tayo para ‘yung mga farmers may resulta sa pawis nila,” Duterte said.
“Sinong nalugi? Wala. Tayong Pilipino. Bilihin natin lahat ‘yan tapos dagdagan natin kasi kulang talaga,” he added.
The lower palay prices have deeply affected the farm sector as the country’s rice sufficiency went down from 93 percent to 86 percent as rice importation from neighboring Thailand and Vietnam have increased.
Producing rice has become expensive in the country due to lack of irrigation and modern farm machineries and post-production facilities.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar responded he will meet with the President later today to discuss the problem of rice farmers. (Karen Macalalad / MM)