PROVING that locally produced rice could compete with imported rice in quality and affordability, a farmers’ cooperative in Dingle, Iloilo is selling rice for as low as P33 per kilo for “bahay” (old harvest) and P37 per kilo for well-polished rice.
Officials of Dingle Multi-Purpose Cooperative said they could support the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bigas ng Masa Program which aims to provide affordable rice supply direct from the farmers to the consumers if they have enough capitalization to buy their members’ produce.
Earlier, the DA gave the cooperative a Rice Processing Complex (RPC) and P5-million initial working capital.
The RPC is a grant from the government of South Korea through the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). Under it, over 160 RPCs were built all over the country, but some did not become operational because other farmers lack funds for the electrical connection and capitalization.
During a forum with farmers at the Western Visayas Agricultural Research Center (Wesviarc) on Friday, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol asked Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) Executive Director Joselyn Badiola to consider the P10-million loan application of DMPC.
Piñol also directed all heads of DA regional offices to link up with all farmers’ groups that already received RPCs so they could supply rice to the Bigas ng Masa Program nationwide.
“If the farmers of Dingle could sell locally produced rice for P33 to P37 per kilo, I do not see any reason why this could not be replicated in other parts of the country,” Piñol said.
Meanwhile, farmers groups from the provinces of Iloilo, Aklan and Capiz received P67 million worth of farm implements and equipment as the DA intensified its modernization and mechanization program.
DA Regional Office VI turned over tractors, reapers, hand tractors, turtle tillers, corn shellers, cassava grating machines and other implements which were temporarily stored at Wesviarc in Jaro, Iloilo.
The farm equipment and machinery intended for Antique Province will be turned over to farmer beneficiaries by the first week of March.
Piñol said that in the past, farmers were asked to raise 10 percent counterpart fund for the cost of tractors and other equipment but President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to give these for free to qualified farmers’ groups.
“When I assumed office as Secretary of Agriculture, I uncovered billions worth of farm equipment and implements which were not delivered to farmers’ groups because they could not put up the 10 percent equity,” Piñol said.
Through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), farmers’ groups could buy the equipment they need by availing of the loan for only six percent interest per year and payable in eight years.
Loan to onion farmers
Similarly, farmers in Iloilo can avail of the extended production loans under the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) Program amounting to P82 million where onion and garlic growers are granted P150,000 loan per hectare.
The total area planted to bulb onion all over the country is estimated at 16,000 hectares.
Planted areas in Oton and three other towns in Iloilo have increased from 47 hectares in 2017 to 202 hectares this year, according to Remelyn Recoter, DA Region 4 director.
Recoter said that for the entire Iloilo, the target expansion area is 1,000 hectares with an average production of 10-metric tons per hectare.
In his recent visit to Oton, Piñol committed another P10 million in PLEA loan funds for onion farmers.
“The emergence of Iloilo province as another potential major producer of bulb onions will rapidly increase the production of this controversial commodity which has been the subject of many Senate investigations because of the involvement of cartels and smuggling syndicates,” Piñol added.