MANILA – Agriculture Secretary William Dar urged anew local government units (LGUs), particularly those in top rice-producing provinces, to help the government buy palay (paddy rice) directly from farmers to pump up prices this main cropping season.
“It is that time of the year again wherein we are counting on the continued support of LGUs, including multi-purpose farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) as they have done since 2019, to help the Department of Agriculture (DA) through the National Food Authority (NFA), to buy from their farmer-constituents and thus stabilize prices in their respective areas,” the secretary said on Tuesday.
Dar said the partnership between the LGUs and FCAs is the key to provide farmers with an assured market. It also embodies the Duterte administration’s whole-of-nation approach, benefiting farmers and their families, and other rice industry players.
Through the support of the LGUs in rice-producing provinces, NFA’s palay procurement fund of PHP7 billion yearly was augmented. There were enough to buy 300,000 metric tons (MT) at a maximum price of PHP19 per kilogram (kg), data from the DA showed.
“In particular, we commend the provinces of Nueva Ecija and Isabela, the country’s top two rice producers, led by Governor Aurelio Umali and Rodolfo Albano III, for showing the way. They even top off the prevailing farmgate price by at least PHP1/kg more, which is indeed commendable,” Dar said.
Meanwhile, the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) under its “Palay at Mais ng Lalawigan” credit program, has lent as of July 31, 2021, PHP3.8 billion to eight LGUs.
Dar said all LGUs have the legal authority, under the “Sagip Saka Act” or Republic Act 11321, to set aside funds to promote and support farmers and fisherfolk enterprise development through direct purchase of agricultural and fishery products from accredited cooperatives and enterprises.
“In all, we are heartened that LGUs, FCAs, and financial institutions are helping the Duterte administration in our continued and vigorous efforts to help our farmers and fishers increase their productivity and incomes,” he said.
To note, the DA and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) are now in the final stages in crafting the guidelines on the rice procurement process for the government’s “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program” or 4Ps, wherein indigent families receive PHP600 in cash as rice allowance.
“Under the scheme, using the DSWD’s 4Ps fund, the NFA will buy palay and mill into rice which DSWD will distribute to 4Ps beneficiaries nationwide,” the DA chief said.
In 2020, the DSWD has set aside PHP31 billion for the distribution of NFA rice to beneficiaries of 4Ps, instead of giving them directly the PHP600 rice allowance.
The DA expects palay harvest for the second semester of 2021 to reach more than 11 million MT, barring strong typhoons in the remaining months, which would bring the projected total annual production to more than 20 million MT, topping last year’s record yield of 19.4 million MT. (PNA)