AGRICULTURE Secretary William D. Dar said that six provinces have committed to buy rice from farmers during the harvest this month, including three provinces in rice country.

“We have requested our President to invite the top 30 rice-producing provinces… to participate doon sa pagbibili ng palay (in the purchasing of palay),” he said in a chance interview after a forum on Saturday.

Mas lalo na itong (Most especially this) harvest starting September hanggang (up to) October ay nakiki-usap tayo at sana (we are asking that) they open up their hearts and minds at this point in time ay kailangan natin ng tulong nila (we need their help),” he said.

He noted that Isabela, which has allotted more than P400 million for procurement, while Nueva Ecija, and Ilocos Norte have both allotted P200 million for the rice value chain. Other provinces that have made commitments are Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan.

They will be directly buying palay, or unmilled rice, from the farmers, then dry, mill, and sell to cities in Metro Manila, like Makati City, Quezon City, Mandaluyong City, and San Juan City. The Department of Agriculture (DA) regional offices will be monitoring the activity.

Procurement by local governments is intended to assist the National Food Authority (NFA) in procuring palay, or unmilled rice, the form in which farmers sell their grain. The NFA is currently holding 4.5 million bags of imported rice, and 6.4 million bags of palay in its warehouses, limiting its capacity to carry out its domestic procurement mandate.

Nakausap na natin yung anim na (We have spoken with the six) provincial governments… at handa silang tumulong sa problema na ito (and they are ready to help in this problem). If all 30 provincial governments will buy that will be a big help to the rice farmers,” he added.

Mr. Dar said that other provinces who cannot finance their procurement can borrow from the Landbank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) or the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

“Other provinces that are not financially sound can borrow money to buy needed dryers, and millers, from LANDBANK and DBP to engage in palay procurement, drying, milling and marketing operations,” he said in a statement.

Local government units (LGUs) can also pledge their internal revenue allotments as security for loans. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang