(UPDATE) FARMERS in Central Luzon on Tuesday complained that the buying price of palay (unhusked rice) has dropped to P13 per kilo, P6 lower than the P19 per kilo set by the National Food Authority (NFA).
In a radio interview, Central Luzon Farmers' Cooperative president Sonny Sioson urged the government to address the plight of palay farmers, saying his group will be forced to campaign to reduce the planting of rice fields to 1.5 million hectares from the current 3 million hectares.
“If the government will not listen to our plea, we will be forced to campaign that instead of planting three million hectares nationwide, we will reduce it to 1.5 million hectares,” Sioson said.
He added that the farmers are affected by the low buying price of palay.
“The P13 buying price of palay in Nueva Ecija is true. Yesterday, some farmers were lucky that traders bought their palay at P14 but, in general, the buying price is low,” Sioson said.
Central Luzon or Region 3 groups the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales. According to Sioson, the farmers have suffered big losses because of the dampened prices of palay.
“The reasonable prices of palay should be between P18 and P20 per kilo. If [they fall] further, the farmers will no longer make money,” he said.
He added that he has decided not to till his four-hectare field because of the current situation.
“If we reduce the [area planted to rice] in the country, it could increase the buying price of palay due to limited supply,” Sioson said.
Many rice millers have been forced to stop operating amid the dip in the buying price of palay.
“They know that the buying price of palay has been declining, that is why they are not aggressive in their operation,” Sioson said.
He noted that only rice importers and smugglers are earning from the influx of imported rice.
Sioson urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to order the NFA to raise the buying price of palay to P23 per kilo.
“What we are asking is to implement at least P23 buying price for clean and dry palay and give NFA the regulatory power to buy palay to ensure enough buffer stock,” he said.
Sioson added that farmers will prefer the P23 per kilo buying price instead of the P5,000 cash assistance being offered as part of the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law.
“The P5,000 is not the solution to address the plight of the farmers, implement a P23 buying price of palay instead of the cash assistance,” he said.
Despite a decline in the buying price of palay, the retail price of rice in Metro Manila remains high.
Based on the daily monitoring of the DA, the retail price of regular milled rice ranges from P35 to P40 per kilo; well-milled rice from P38 to P44 a kilo; and premium rice from P42 to P49 per kilo.
The Manila Times texted DA Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista to comment on the issue.
Evangelista said she will refer the issue to the concerned official of the agency.
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