THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Finance (DoF) have agreed to expand the Survival and Recovery (SURE) program to assist farmers in weathering the impact of low rice prices following the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law.

In a statement, the DA said that the assistance will take the form of unconditional cash assistance that will be given to farmers affected by the law. SURE is administered by the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), and will supplement the programs and projects under the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) which include mechanization, credit, seed, and training programs for rice farmers.

The expansion of the program will also be based on the implementation of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“This unconditional cash assistance program is meant to help cushion the initial impact of lower palay prices on our farmers as they transition to the new rice tariffication regime,” Mr. Carlos G. Dominguez said in the statement.

“For the long haul, the RCEF facility under RA (Republic Act) 11203 will help sharpen the global competitiveness of our farmers by way of an array of programs providing them with access to farm machinery and equipment, high-yield seeds, cheap credit and skills training programs on farm mechanization and modern farming techniques,” he added.

Mr. William Dar, who chairs the ACPC council, will raise this to the council as soon as possible to disburse assistance at the soonest possible time.

Farmers have been calling the government to act on regarding the falling farmgate price of palay, or unmilled rice, the form in which domestic farmers sell their harvest. Prices are under pressure due to competition from cheap imported rice. The average farmgate price of palay, or unmilled rice, fell 0.1% week-on-week during the third week of July to P17.80 per kilogram (kg), the Philippine Statistics Authority said.

The farmgate price has declined 23% from its peak in September 2018, which was P22.88 per kg, farmers said. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang