By: Karl R. Ocampo, Philippine Daily Inquirer / 24 Oct 2019
Rosadilla Limbres has been planting palay for the past three decades in her hometown of Bukidnon, but she described the last three years as the hardest time she had in farming.
The 64-year-old owns a three-hectare rice farm in Barangay Kibawe, where wet palay now sells for P12 a kilogram against P20 a kilo last year. For the last two harvests, she said she did not make any profit.
The coming harvest season may not be any different, she said.
“Fertilizers have gotten expensive but prices [of palay] are so low. We also cannot reduce the wages of our farmworkers,” Limbres said in Filipino. “I’m planning to stop selling palay. What we’ll harvest this season we’ll just have it milled so we we will not have to buy for our own consumption anymore. We’re losing anyway.”
Rey Amurao, a farmer in Tarlac, expressed the same sentiment. In his province, wet palay sells for P14 a kilo, which prompted other farmers to keep their own produce instead of selling them at a very low price.
The plight of Limbres and Amurao ring true to several producers across the country.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the average buying price of palay dipped further to P15.56 a kilo in the first week of October—down by 28.82 percent from year-ago levels and the lowest in eight years.
Except for Abra, Laguna, Bohol, Misamis Oriental and Surigao del Sur, all provinces in the country recorded a buying price below P20 a kilo.
“Our farmers are already restless. They are angry,” Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said. “What they need is for their produce to be sold at a reasonable rate. Right here, right now.”
In a briefing, Agriculture Secretary William Dar assured farmers that the recent rollout of the rice competitiveness enhancement program (RCEP) would turn things around.
As of last week, 32 percent of the program’s annual P10-billion fund have already been funneled to agencies responsible for implementing RCEP projects.
These include the provision of seeds, machinery, credit and training to 57 rice-producing provinces all over the country—which is geared toward making the industry more competitive and profitable.
“The program is now starting,” Dar said. “We have rolled out part of the seed distribution component in Isabela about 10 days ago and all the other activities like training extension are now being enhanced … This is the right time to implement RCEP and accelerate its implementation in time for the main harvest season.”
But Amurao said he was not that optimistic. “Nothing has changed here. Prices are still down. We’ll believe them when we feel the impact [of the programs],” he said.