THE government is looking at allocating an additional P3 billion for its conditional cash assistance program to help farmers affected by the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Tuesday.
“Three billion (pesos) have been approved by the Cabinet for this year, and we are looking at another P3 billion for the coming year,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said during his department’s press conference on the first 100 days of his leadership.
“[W]e will [give] it this time around to farmers tilling 1.01 hectare up to 2 hectares at… P5,000 each,” he added.
Concerned agencies, the Agriculture chief said, are now at the “final stage” of drafting the final guidelines for the additional funding of the program.
According to Dar, they are yet to decide whether the government would only consider the most affected provinces, where palay (unmilled rice) prices are down, or the 57 provinces where the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) program is being implemented.
In light of the continued drop in palay prices from their peak of P23.14 per kilogram (kg) in September 2018 to only P15.43/kg in the fourth week of October 2019, the DA earlier allocated P3 billion in cash assistance to rice planters tilling 1 hectare. At P5,000 each farmer, this cash aid was targeted to be distributed to beneficiaries before the end of 2019.
The DA also allotted P2.5-billion in funds for Expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance Program (SURE Aid), a one-time loan assistance of P15,000 to small rice farmers at zero-percent interest rate payable for eight years.
Furthermore, the agency supports the local government units to buy their rice needs from local farmers.
“The NFA (National Food Authority) has also been directed to roll over their money in terms of their buying palay in the countryside. We have even gone to the extent of recommending the conversion of the rice subsidy money for 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) to be given in terms of rice and that will start this November and December,” Dar explained.
The steep drop in farmgate prices of palay was blamed on the implementation of the government’s rice tariffication program, which allowed the unlimited entry of cheap imported rice.