MORE THAN P100 billion in assistance and savings has been given to rice farmers and consumers, according to Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar.

In a statement, Mr. Dar said that the national government has provided an estimated P34 billion worth of assistance to rice farmers in efforts to improve their incomes and output. The assistance is also meant to address stiffer market competition as a result of the entry of imported rice due to Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

According to Mr. Dar, the financial aid given to farmers includes P10 billion worth of free seeds, fertilizer, and farm machinery, among others, under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF); P8.5 billion under the Rice Resiliency Program; P7 billion from the National Rice Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA); P6 billion as amelioration under financial assistance programs; and P2.5 billion in credit.

Mr. Dar said the amount is more than half of the DA’s approved P64.7 billion budget for the year and is on top of the free irrigation water services provided by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

“This alone indicates the importance and priority given to rice farmers, and this is just for the first year of RTL alone, we are striving for a bigger allocation for the rice sector in 2021,” Mr. Dar said.

The DA claimed that the influx of imported rice into the local market resulted in a drop in price for consumers of regular milled rice, to P37 per kilogram from the previous price of P45.

The lower prices of rice has resulted in P72 billion in savings for consumers, according to the DA, which enabled them to purchase other basic food commodities and necessities.

“This allowed our less privileged countrymen to buy more food from savings generated from low inflation,” Mr. Dar said.

Mr. Dar said that despite the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the country’s economy, rice supply and prices have remained stable under the RTL.

“Research-wise, we cannot fully assess the impact of RTL within just a short period of time. We cannot use unilateral results of studies to push a change course. We know there will be birth pains,” Mr. Dar said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave