‘Exempt rice seeds from procurement law’

In Photo: A farmer in Santiago City, Isabela, shows off his newly harvested rice. Known as the “rice granary of the North,” the province of Isabela supplies Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon with the staple. To boost paddy production, the Department of Agriculture (DA) wants its procurement of rice seeds to be exempted from competitive bidding. The DA said this will allow farmers to plant the most suitable rice variety for their area.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is seeking to exempt its procurement of rice seeds from public bidding to ensure that farmers would get only “good quality and appropriate” seeds.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said he has sought the guidance of President Duterte on how the DA could skirt the usual government procurement process wherein the lowest bidder wins.

“We at the DA wish to ask for your guidance regarding the lowest bid rule for the procurement of palay seeds to ensure that the supplier with good quality and appropriate seed supply wins the contract,” Piñol said in a letter addressed to Duterte, which he posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

“It must be noted that palay is a site-specific crop. Thus, one particular type or variety of seed may grow productively in one region but not in another,” he added.

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The DA chief sent the letter to Duterte on February 7, before he left for Papua New Guinea.

Piñol said “experiences from previous administrations have seen frustrated farmers reporting failed crops after being provided by the DA with seeds procured via the lowest bid rule.”

“This request for guidance is urgent, Mr. President, since we are starting our procurement process for our rice seeds for this planting season,” he added.

In the same Facebook post, Piñol said Duterte has responded to his letter and has instructed the DA “to let the farmers indicate their preference in a manifesto so that the agency will have the basis in skirting the usual procurement process.”

“Following the guidance from the President, Director Roy Abaya of DA Region 3 which covers Central Luzon, asked the farmers in his area to come up with a manifesto declaring their chosen hybrid rice seeds,” he said.

“Yesterday, Director Abaya reported that the Regional Development Council [RDC]  passed a resolution approving the proposal of DA Region 3 to exempt the procurement of rice seeds from the ‘lowest bidder’ scheme,” he added.

Piñol said other DA regional offices would now follow suit to “justify the exemption of the rice seeds procurement from the usual bidding process.”

Farmers in top rice-producing provinces in the country are currently harvesting their crop. Planting for the wet season crop would begin in May.

In its latest “Rice and Corn Situation and Outlook,” the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) projected that paddy output in the first quarter would rise by 5.65 percent to 4.67 million metric tons (MMT).

The PSA based its forecast on standing crop.

Based on farmers’ planting intentions, the PSA said paddy production in the April-to-June period will be affected by the earlier decision to plant during the fourth quarter of 2017.

Unmilled rice production in 2017 reached 19.28 MMT, 9.36 percent above the 2016 output of 17.63 MMT due to the expansion in harvest area and hike in yield per hectare.

Image Credits: Leonardo Perante II

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