RICE FARMERS said the government needs to provide assistance due to the farmgate price of palay, or unmilled rice, which has fallen below production costs.

Rosendo O. So, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) chairman, said the average farmgate price of palay as of Tuesday morning was P14 per kilogram (/kg) in Pangasinan, Batangas, and Isabela; P13/kg in Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, and Laguna; and P10/kg in Mindoro.  

According to SINAG, the cost of production for palay during this cropping season is P15/kg.

Siguradong babagsak pa ang presyo ng palay dahil magsisimula pa lamang ang bulto ng anihan in 1-2 weeks (prices are sure to fall further when much of the harvest comes in in 1-2 weeks),” Mr. So said in a statement.

Mr. So added that rice millers and traders are only willing to buy palay at P12 to P13/kg due to the “deluge of imported rice.”

“Even the millers are not motivated to buy palay. They are already at a loss because of the surge in rice imports,” Mr. So said.

Mr. So urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to purchase the palay harvest at P16/kg for fresh palay and P19/kg for dry.

“Where are Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar and the economic managers? They claim that the tariff cuts will improve our domestic production and provide needed support to our farmers and producers,” Mr. So said.  

President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Executive Order No. 135 on May 15 which lowered the most-favored nation tariff rates on rice imports to “diversify the country’s market sources.”

Under the order, the tariff on rice imports was reduced to 35% from 40% for volumes within the quota. Shipments exceeding the quota are to be charged 50%. 

In a virtual briefing Tuesday, Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel T. Cayanan said the national average farmgate price of fresh palay and dry palay as of the second week of September were at P14.89/kg and P18.10/kg, respectively. He was citing data from the Philippine Rice Information System.

Mr. Cayanan confirmed that there are some areas with a farmgate price of P10/kg, but added that in those cases the palay harvest was either damaged or exceeded the prescribed moisture content. 

The DA is urging local government units (LGUs) in the top rice-producing provinces to purchase palay straight from the farmers to increase farmgate prices during the cropping season.

LGUs will help supplement purchases made by the National Food Authority, which has a palay procurement fund of “P7 billion yearly, enough to buy 300,000 metric tons (MT) at a maximum price of P19/kg,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said in a separate statement.

DA Region II Director Narciso A. Edillo said the farmgate price of fresh palay ranges from P13 to P15/kg in his jurisdiction, while dry palay sells for P17 to P19/kg.

For 2021, the DA is targeting production of more than 20 million MT of rice, against 19.4 million MT in 2020. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave