Farmers blast Agriculture Secretary for downplaying impact of rice liberalization on farmers
March 6, 2020 – The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) chided Secretary William Dar of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for belittling the harm that the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) has inflicted on farmers. During a recent chance interview, Secretary Dar was quoted as saying that farmers had actually lost only Php 8.2 billion during the first year of implementation of the RTL. Later on, Dar further pared down the estimated losses to Php 3.3 billion in a statement made during the anniversary rites for the first year of the RTL in Urdaneta, Pangasinan.
Dar also questioned the validity of the FFF’s earlier claim that farmers actually lost as much as Php 68 billion due to the fall in palay prices brought about by the inflow of more than 3 million tons of rice imports in 2019. The RTL, which was enacted in March 2019, removed quantitative restrictions and almost all government controls over rice imports.
“The basis for our claim of Php 68 billion in farmer losses is very simple. The average price of palay, based on official data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) was Php 20.40 in 2018 and Php 16.78 in 2019, or a drop of Php 3.62 per kilo. Multiply that by the total palay output of 18.815 billion kilos in 2019 and you get Php 68 billion. Even if we compare 2019 prices with the 2016-17 average of Php 17.82 per kilo, we still come up with a loss of almost Php 20 billion. You do not need to hire an economist and design complicated macroeconomic models to get these results.”, said Raul Montemayor, National Manager of the FFF.
The FFF challenged Secretary Dar to present the basis for his claims that the computations of the FFF were incorrect, and that actual losses were very much less than claimed. “If Secretary Dar does not explain his statements, people will suspect that he is either spreading fake news, or worse, he does not really know what is happening to farmers on the ground.”, added Montemayor.
Based on its own studies, the FFF claimed that the losses of farmers from the drop in palay prices were almost double the gains of consumers from the decline in the retail prices of rice between 2018 and 2019. At the retail level, average rice prices in 2019 were also higher than prevailing prices in 2016 and 2017 during which quantitative restrictions on rice imports were still in place.aths monitored in January 2020.