A lawmaker from the country’s top rice-producing province has blamed the sharp fall of palay (unmilled rice) prices on the implementation of Republic Act 11203, or the “Rice Tariffication Law,” which opened up the market to unlimited rice imports.
According to Nueva Ecija Rep. Estellita Suansing, after the law’s implementation in March, palay prices in her province have dropped to P12 per kilo because of cheaper rice imports.
While the market is flooded with these imports, the selling price of rice at the retail trade barely dropped, she said.
Known as the rice granary of the Philippines, Nueva Ecija produces the bulk of the national supply of rice grains.
Affected farmers in the province said they were forced to sell their produce as low as P7 per kilo since they started to harvest in August.
Eduardo Selispara, president of farmers group Bakmal Irrigators Association in Bakal Dos village in Nueva Ejica’s Talavera town, said the government should act on the problem before it’s too late.
This comes after the Department of Agriculture (DA) launched in Nueva Ecija on Monday its Expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance Program for Rice Farmers (SURE Aid Program).
The program provides a one-time loan assistance of P15,000 to rice farmers who are farming one hectare of land and below at 0-percent interest rate payable in eight years.
Suansin, however, said the initiative was only an aid to rice farmers and not the actual solution to the problem.
Meanwhile, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the government should set the floor price of palay to at least P20 per kilo. KMP chairman and former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano said the suggested figure could help rice farmers recover and keep on planting.
To protect the local rice industry from the influx of imported rice, the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura’s (Sinag) said the DA should look at immediately suspending the issuance of importation permits, specifically the Sanitary and Pytho-Sanitary (SPS) permits.
Sinag Chairman Rosendo So said farmers’ misery would continue if rice imports are not stopped.