THE farmgate prices of palay, or unmilled rice, is expected to continue declining to P15-16 per kilogram (kg) as supply expands during the harvest, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said in a statement on Sunday.

Farmgate prices — what traders pay farmers for their harvest, and an indicator of the strength of farmer earnings — were at between P17 and P18 per kg, according to a field survey conducted by the DA’s National Rice Program.

“The onset of the harvest in Nueva Ecija in early September had (led to a) declining trend in palay farmgate prices, which might drop even more when the harvest peaks in late September and October,” it said.

It added that the harvest for the wet-season crop will peak in mid-September.

Nueva Ecija is a major rice producing province with productive, well-irrigated land. The efficiency of rice growing in the province means its farmers will be able to weather low prices better than farmers on more marginal land.

The DA said that farmers were affected by prolonged rains caused by recent typhoons and the southwest monsoon.

In its recent bulletin, the DA said that total damage and losses brought by the southwest monsoon enhanced by Typhoon Goring (international name: Saola) was P1.14 billion. Damage to the rice crop was 41,238 metric tons amounting to P979.42 million.

It added that the recent price controls on rice, implemented on Sept. 5, helped push palay prices lower.

Executive Order No. 39 imposed a temporary price ceiling of P41 per kilogram for regular-milled rice and P45 per kilogram for well-milled rice.

The DA said farmers have expressed fears that traders, millers, and other merchants would buy their harvest at a “uniform lower price.”

Farmers have clamored for their own subsidy because of the reduced palay prices, alongside the cash aid received by rice retailers.

Rice retailers, who will not be able to realize a profit due to the price controls, were granted a P15,000 subsidy to be disbursed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the same department that distributes cash aid to the poor.

“(Farmers) also appealed to (President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.) to order the National Food Authority to buy fresh (wet) palay at the farmgate level,” it said. — Adrian H. Halili