THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has partnered with state-run Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) for an initiative to extend P10 billion in loans to local government units (LGUs) so they can purchase palay (unmilled rice) from their farmers.
The new program, called “Palay Alay sa Magsasaka ng Lalawigan,” is part of the DA’s bid to further boost procurement of local palay to help farmers reeling from very low prices of their produce under the new rice regime, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a press conference on Friday in Manila.
“We support the secretary’s initiative to further strengthen and provide assistance to our small palay farmers. [The] Palay Alay sa Magsasaka ng Lalawigan… will provide a program fund of about P10 billion to all LGUs for the purchase [and] acquisition of palay from the small farmers,” said Emellie Tamayo, LandBank First Vice President for Lending Program Management Group.
Tamayo said the program aims to boost LGU engagement in palay-buying, drying, milling and rice marketing.
Last week, the DA appealed to governors of rice-producing provinces to buy palay directly form local farmers at P17 per kilo. This, as the agency admitted the National Food Authority (NFA) has insufficient funds to purchase all locally-produced palay, especially those from small farmers.
NFA Administrator Judy Dansal had welcomed the proposal for an additional budget of up to P15 billion to the current procurement funds of NFA to fulfill its buffer stocking role with the implementation of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.
Under the law, the NFA is mandated to maintain a 15-day rice reserve at any given time and a 30-day buffer stock during the lean season.
“[For] the 15 days volume stock of NFA [or] 9 million bags, under Republic Act 11203, we need P13.2 billion. So [for] the 30 days maximum buffer stocking, the money we need is P31 billion,” Dansal said.
Meanwhile, Dar has garnered the support of 30 provincial local government units (PLGUs) to allot funds to bankroll rice value chain, following his recent meeting with the officials of the League of Provinces of the Philippines.
Among these provinces are Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Cagayan, Bataan, Camarines Sur, Apayao, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Biliran, Sarangani, Iloilo, Kalinga, Zamboanga Sibugay, Mountain Province, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Bohol, Capiz, Lanao del Sur, Albay and North Cotabato.
“We are fully supportive of your thrusts and directions that we will take for the benefit of our hardworking but more or less destitute farmers and growers,” said LPP President and Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr.