‘Traders taking advantage of Karding-hit rice farmers’

In this file photo farmers harvest palay (unhusked rice) that they planted. PHOTO BY NESTOR L. ABREMATEA

THE leader of the agricultural group Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. on Friday said traders are taking advantage of rice farmers hit by Super Typhoon “Karding” by buying palay (unhusked rice) from them for as low as P13 per kilo.

In an interview with The Manila Times, the group's president Danilo Fausto also said while many farmers in Nueva Ecija province in Central Luzon (Region 3) were able to save a portion of their palay harvests, they are now at the mercy of the traders.

“The traders are offering P3 less than the average of P18 farmgate price at P15 per kilo for good variety but for other varieties, it is lower by P2 per kilo, or from P14 to P13 per kilo. The farmers will not even earn, especially that Christmas is approaching,” Fausto noted.

“The central and eastern parts of Nueva Ecija are upland areas so they can still recover. It's not that bad [for these areas]. Severely affected was the western side of Nueva Ecija. Based on my estimate, I will lose [from] 10 to 20 percent of the yield, and I think it will be the same as the others,” he said.

According to Fausto, farmers in Nueva Ecija, a big rice producer, were worried after storm signal number 5 was declared in the province during the onslaught of Karding.

“During the typhoon, we were really devastated. After the typhoon, we found out that it's not that bad. While there is a supposed shortage of rice, the palay is being bought here at very low prices. Karding brought the price down as traders are taking advantage of the plight of the farmers,” he said.

Fausto also noted that many millers have decided to stop their operation because of the low farmgate prices of palay.

“What I am suffering now, I'm sure is being experienced also by the others. I can manage, but I don't know the others and that's why my heart bleeds and weeps for them,” he said.

Fausto said Nueva Ecija represents 10 percent of the total country's rice production for the entire year.

“Since this is the main crop, it represents 60 to 65 percent of the production. Here in Central Luzon, Nueva Ecija represents 52 percent of the production. It's something like two million metric tons per year. We will be getting still less than one million metric tons for this harvest,” he added.

Fausto said he expects a tight supply of rice in January 2022 amid a reduction in the yield caused by Karding and the high cost of fertilizer.

“Our next harvest will be March to April. We are harvesting now, and by November will resume planting. By February, some areas in Bulacan, [and the] southern part of Nueva Ecija will start harvesting already. You will expect by January, you have tightening of supply,” he added.

Fausto said he expects a shortfall of at least 500,000 metric tons of palay.

“Our importation is pegged at 2.9 million metric tons, but the 3.4 million metric tons projected by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) are too much. If that is the case, there is already manipulation. You will already kill the local farmers,” he added.

According to Fausto, it will be more costly to import rice amid the depreciation of the peso and the increase in the tariff from Vietnam and Thailand.

“The Rice Tariffication Law failed to bring down the prices of rice to P32 from P35 as the prevailing price is still between P38 and P42 per kilo,” he also noted.

“A lot of traders and importers are making a lot of money at the expense of the people who are really working in the field. People are asking for protection from the unscrupulous traders and only the government can help them,” Fausto said.

He also said the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other concerned agencies should fast-track assistance to the affected farmers.

“We are a nation in a hurry as we have a war on food production. We need an army to solve this problem of food production,” Fausto added.

He cited the findings of the Commission on Audit (CoA) after it flagged the DA on the delay in the release of fertilizers to the farmers.

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Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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