ILOILO CITY – Farmers and netizens are now calling on social media to raise the price of palay (unhusked rice) while lowering the price of rice. The current price of palay is very cheap while the price of rice remains expensive in the market.
According to the data from the Federation of Free Farmers, the price of balhog (wet palay) is only Php11 – Php13 per kilo and the uga (dry palay) is only Php14 – Php17 per kilo. The cheapest price of rice in the market remains at Php 35 per kilo.
Netizens and consumers compared the price of palay to various items. According to Bantay Bigas Mindanao, extra rice from fastfood restaurants is even more expensive at Php20 – Php25 per pack. Other netizens posted that a kilo of aluminum, PET bottles, and even the value of a giant taro plant or badyang are more expensive compared to palay.
In a press conference, the National Food Authority clarified that they have nothing to do with the low buying prices of palay. The agency also explained that they only buy dry and clean palay at a price of Php19 per kilo based on their mandate under the Rice Liberalization Law and that their purchase is very limited because of the agency’s budget for buying palay is only Php7 billion.
According to the farmer’s group PAMANGGAS, the one to blame on the issue of the low buying price of palay is the Duterte government for signing the RA 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law and senator Cynthia Villar who is the main proponent in the senate.
According to the group, because of the RLL, the country depended on rice importation instead of strengthening the rice industry. Also under the RLL, the NFA has relinquished its mandate to ensure the country’s rice supply from the supplier to the market, and has only limited its functions as “buffer stocking”. The RLL also eliminated the regulatory powers of NFA and simply handed it over to the big traders.
The group added that in the first year of the implementation of the RLL in 2019, palay buying price decreased to Php7 per kilo in some provinces. This is contrary to Villar’s statement that the condition of the farmers will improve in the future under the said law.
The group called for the repeal of RA 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law and the passage of House Bill 477 or the Rice Industry Development Act or RIDA to ensure the country’s food security.
RIDA is pushing for Php 25 billion funds for the Rice Production Socialized Credit Program to free poor farmers from the repressive rents and debts, and so they can focus on increasing their production.
A fund of Php185 billion is also being pushed for the three-year rice development program including the improvement of infrastructure and post-harvest facilities, support for farm inputs, and research and development. An additional Php310 billion is also being proposed under the bill for the NFA’s program of purchasing local palay.
The group also called to increase palay buying price to Php20 per kilo or more and to allocate Php75 billion for the purchase of palay to ensure that 20% of the overall production in the country is purchased by the government through the NFA./PT