Farmers down on their knees over rice crisis
This is to draw the attention of our government leaders to the ongoing palay price crisis that has hit 3 million or so rice farmers across the archipelago.
It is now the height of the harvest season in Luzon, but newly harvested rice grains are bought at all-time lows between P11 and P12 a kilo, while dry grains command only P14 a kilo, far below the production cost averaging P15 a kilo.
Only last week, when I tried to sell my dried palay at the NFA buying station in my town, field personnel of that agency declared they have stopped buying after overshooting their quota. The vice mayor of our town, Zaldy Abenojar, was also trying to sell 100 bags of his harvest but was also turned down.
The stop-buying operation of NFA came only a week since the buying station was opened, and not even half of harvestable crops in San Quintin had been harvested.
The government seems ill-prepared to deal with the crisis more than 20 years after the Philippines acceded to the World Trade Organization, which should be more than enough time for it to have helped farmers cope with rice trade liberalization.
Rice farmers are down on their knees, not only bankrupted but also heavily indebted after all those promised safety nets were never set up. We are now joining the poorest of the poor as a result of the unlimited importation of cheap rice and cheaper domestic grains.
Past governments, especially that of former president Noynoy Aquino, practically abandoned the farmers when he declared there would be no more direct subsidy to the sector. It is only recently that the Duterte administration has been plowing back resources to the rice sector. But alas, what is trickling our way is too little, too late.
ABE P. BELENA
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