THE Department of Agriculture (DA) will open “Bigas ng Masa” outlets in General Santos City (GenSan) that will sell rice at P38 per kilo, much cheaper than the prevailing price of various varieties to address the rising prices of commercial rice in the market.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said this after city Councilor Franklin Gacal Jr. reported that the standby
rice stocks of the National Food Authority (NFA) in the town is only about P5,900 bags and expected to last only for one week.
Gacal said NFA personnel in GenSan are expecting the augmentation of imported rice that the central office is earmarking for the city is expected to arrive in June.
“That means GenSan will have no NFA rice for three months. The poor will now be forced to buy commercial rice which is expensive,” he said.
The councilor said that such a situation might cause the prices of commercial rice to further surge because of the increase in demand.
Gacal said he initially informed the agriculture secretary through a text message last week and received a response in “less than five minutes.”
The DA launched “Bigas ng Masa” last month to counter the increase in commercial rice prices as a result of the supposed “artificial shortages.”
It initially opened its outlets in Metro Manila that allow consumers to purchase rice at P380 per 10 kilos and P950 per 25 kilos.
Other agricultural products such as upland and lowland vegetables, dried fish and salted eggs are also available in the stalls.
Meanwhile, the NFA is ready to buy as much as many local palay (unpolished rice) harvests from March to May crop yield to beef up its dwindling buffer stock.
NFA administrator Jason Aquino said the agency has made it easier for farmers to sell their palay by simplifying its procedures and payment scheme. In less risky areas, NFA will pay palay deliveries in cash on the same day.
The food agency buys palay at P17 per kilo clean and dry, with additional 20 centavos drying incentive, and P0.20 – P0.50 per kilo delivery incentive. For farmer organizations (FOs) an additional P0.30 per kilo is given as cooperative development incentive fee (CDIF).
Aquino said the food agency will focus all its logistics, funds and personnel on aggressive palay buying as harvest starts to peak in some areas expected to start harvesting earlier than the others.
As early as January, palay procurement fund were remitted to the provinces of Iloilo, Aklan, Bukidnon, La Union, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Batangas, San Jose and Mamburao in Mindoro Occidental, Sultan Kudarat and other areas in Mindanao.
NFA plans to deploy mobile procurement teams in far-flung areas to directly buy palay from farmers, even freshly harvested or wet palay, based on the respective drying capacities of each NFA provincial and regional office.
In selling palay to the agency, the farmer only needs to secure a passbook that is given free of charge, to prove his legitimacy as farmer. He only needs to submit an information sheet with photo and a certification from the barangay (village) chairman, municipal agriculturist, municipal agrarian officer or the National Irrigation Administration where his farm is located.
For farmer organizations, a master passbook must be secured by submitting their certificate of registration, assembly resolution and masterlist of members.
But even without a passbook, NFA said, a farmer can still sell his produce up to 200 bags.