THIRTY local government units have committed to procure, process, and market palay, or unmilled rice, directly from farmers to support the market amid the collapse in farmgate prices.
“The League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) is fully behind you in your projects and programs… we want to make our farmers and producers financially stable,” LPP President and Marinduque Governor Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. was quoted saying in a statement.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) estimates that the average price of palay was P17.62 per kilo in the second week of August, though reports have emerged that farmers are receiving as little as P7 for their harvest this season.
Initially, 13 rice-producing provinces committed funding for the program — Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Cagayan, and Bataan. They committed a combined P3 billion.
After Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar met with the LLP, 17 more LGUs expressed their intentions to participate — Camarines Sur, Apayao, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Biliran, Sarangani, Iloilo, Kalinga, Zamboanga Sibugay, Mountain Province, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Bohol, Capiz, Lanao del Sur, Albay, and North Cotabato.
Mr. Dar said provinces with no resources to deploy to the program can borrow from Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) to finance purchases of dryers and milling equipment, putting up their Internal Revenue Allotments (IRAs) as security.
IRAs are local government’s share of national government revenue.
The National Food Authority (NFA) is tasked with purchasing its inventory from domestic farmers, but currently holds 4.5 million bags of imported rice from last year, when its mission included importing rice. It also holds 6.4 million bags of palay in its warehouses, limiting its ability to buy more because of space constraints.
NFA Administrator Judy Carol L. Dansal has said the agency is continuously buying from farmers.
Palay prices have been pressured by the expansion of imports under the Rice Tariffication Law.