AN umbrella agriculture industry group has raised the issue of the low prevailing palay prices to President Duterte and asked the Chief Executive to subsidize farmers’ produce worth P36 billion as harvest peaks.
The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) wrote to President Duterte on October 12 to bring to his attention the “dire situation” of Filipino rice farmers “who are facing low prices” for their freshly harvested palay at P11 per kilogram (kg).
The letter added that dry palay is being bought at P14 per kg to P15 per kg.
“The low prices of palay means that our farmers will not be able to recoup their farm expenses during this cropping period, and may force them to stop planting palay for good,” the letter read.
The group’s appeal was made while local palay harvest is now in full swing.
“Instead of recognizing these realities, Agriculture Secretary William Dar unfortunately chose to claim that palay prices are averaging P18 per kg in Central Luzon and P19 per kg in Cagayan Valley,” the group argued.
The group said even the rice milling industry is “on the verge of collapse” as they cannot afford to purchase palay at P17 per kg due to “deluge” of imported rice that is “flooding” the domestic market.
The group proposed that the President direct the Department of Agriculture (DA) to subsidize local palay farmers at P4 per kilogram for a total of P36 billion.
“Our expected total harvest for this cropping period is 9 million metric tons of palay [9 billion kilos x P4 pesos—P36 billion],” the letter read.
“This way, we can help both our rice farmers and the local milling industry,” it added.
Earlier, Dar appealed to rice traders and importers to be “patriotic” and stop importing during local harvest season so that palay prices would not be depressed.
Dar said they have already talked to rice traders and importers through the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to stop bringing in rice shipments during October and November, the peak of the local palay harvest.
Dar added that they have asked traders to not take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to make profits and instead help farmers to earn more in these trying times.
“So…they should have patriotism during this pandemic. Let’s help each other for our rice farmers,” he said.
“We are talking to the rice importers out of patriotism. And so far they are responding well to our appeal,” he added.