July 23, 2019
FILIPINO farmers continued to worry over plummeting prices of palay (unhusked rice) which they believe would persist in the next planting season starting September.
While latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the national average farmgate price of palay slightly increased to P17.88 per kilo in late June, or by 0.2 percent from its previous week’s level of P17.85 per kilo, farmers complained palay stayed at P14 per kilo and has even reached to as low as P12 per kilo in some provinces.
Rice planters, particularly those from Luzon, feared the downtrend would continue as main cropping starts in September, slashing huge portions of their earnings.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol earlier said local farmers have predicted this problem could result in an estimated P114 billion in losses to them for the whole year.
To address this, the government should limit the issuance of rice import permits, especially every harvest season, according to Jayson Cainglet, executive director of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag).
“They can do that. During harvest season, there should be no rice imports,” Cainglet told The Manila Times.
On the other hand, the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) said palay farmgate prices were generally lower in 2019 compared to prices in 2016 and 2017 when import restrictions were still in place.
Criticizing government’s claim that rice prices have gone down due to the implementation of Republic Act 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law, the FFF said “it is unrealistic to compare current prices against prices during the rice crisis in 2018.”
“What is most painful to farmers is that their sacrifices are apparently going to waste because consumers are not getting the full benefits from the decline in palay prices and the entry of supposedly cheaper imports. The PSA data in fact appears to show that both consumers and farmers were better off when the quantitative restrictions were still in place, if we exclude the abnormal price movements in 2018,” said FFF National Manager Raul Montemayor.
The FFF also cautioned the government against its move to impose suggested retail prices or SRPs on rice.
“It may be true that some importers and traders are earning extraordinary profits at the expense of consumers. However, traders can again use the cap on rice prices as an excuse to buy at even lower prices from farmers,” Montemayor said.
“At this point in time when rice prices have normalized, government must focus on addressing the problems of small farmers, specially since the main harvest season is about to begin,” he added.
Data from PSA showed that the average retail price of well-milled rice was at P42.91 per kilo in the last week of June while the average retail price of regular milled rice reached P38.60 per kilo during the period. Compared to last year when there was rice crisis, prices were lower. They are, however, significantly higher versus prices in 2016 and 2017.
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