VARIOUS government agencies are now working together in preparation for the country’s first palay (unmilled rice) harvest season this year.
In a statement on Friday, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the Department of Agriculture (DA), including Regional Rice Program Coordinators, National Food Authority (NFA) Regional and Provincial Managers and officials of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) were now preparing a “coordinated plan” to be implemented for the first harvest season of 2019.
These government bodies were gathered in Davao City on Friday for a “collaborative meeting” which intends to identify measures that can help boost NFA’s local palay procurement and strengthen government support to Filipino farmers.
“The coordinative meeting is very critical because of NFA’s new role in the rice industry which limits its buffer stocking function to buying only locally produced paddy rice, instead of relying on importation,” said Piñol.
“The NFA, which was placed back under the DA on orders of President Rody Duterte four months ago, will now be supported by the DA in its procurement operations to ensure that it will be able to buy enough stocks for the buffer stocks to stabilize supply and, at the same time, protect farmers from exploitation by rice traders,” he explained.
Piñol emphasized the need to intensify government support to local farmers to protect them from the threat of a lower buying price for their produce due to the inflow of imported rice as a result of the liberalization of the rice industry.
To do this, he said the NFA Council will continue to its Buffer Stocking Incentive (BSI) nationwide program which aims to offer a P3.70 incentive per kilo to the P17 per kilo buying price, or a total of P20.70 per kilo for clean and dry paddy rice.
NFA’s buying price for palay was at P17 per kilo over the past 10 years. It was only in October last year when the NFA Council launched its buffer stocking incentive.
While the program has helped both the NFA and the local farmers, Piñol said much is still needed to be addressed in the rice industry including the lack of drying facilities, the delayed payments and the inability to bring their buying operations to the field.
“Added to that is the dependence of many farmers on community traders for their financing for the purchase of fertilizers, farm inputs and even personal needs,” he added.
To boost rice production, the DA is proposing for the establishment of drying facilities in all NFA buying stations. The agency is targeting to establish rice processing facilities in about 200 areas across the country.
Piñol said the DA is also eyeing to have PhilRice identify the rice seed varieties adaptable to a specific area, focusing on at least three high-yielding rice varieties. He added that the DA is planning to implement a credit program for farmers who will sell their produce to the NFA at 2 percent interest, payable upon harvest.
For this year, the NFA has allocated P7 billion for paddy rice procurement for the first harvest season. In the Philippines, the wet-season rice crop in the north lasts from June to November and the dry-season crop from January to May-June. In the south, it is the reverse–wet-season crops last from October-November to March-April and dry-season crops from May-June to November.