A consumers watch group on Friday blamed the falling farmgate prices of palay to the “bankruptcy” of millions of local rice farmers due to rice tariffication.
Bantay Bigas, along with the National Federation of Peasant Women [Amihan], said: “we are facing the destructive first phase of rice liberalization.”
Cathy Estavillo, spokesperson and Anakpawis party-list nominee, hit Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piňol’s downplaying of the situation for putting the blame on speculation and manipulation by private traders, and not due to Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law, and that it is only “temporary.”
“We are being swindled again and again, that the law will not impact the Filipino rice farmers, and yet at present, we are hearing this again from the Duterte government,” she said.
She raised the alarm that the continuing decline of farmgate prices of palay was the first phase of the destructive impact of Republic Act No. 11203, or the Rice Liberalization Law, after its enactment in February.
“We have been warning against this prior to the enactment of the law, and now we are now facing the destruction of the rice farmers, the primary productive force of our national rice industry. Their bankruptcy will certainly throw them into indebtedness, and eventual displacement from production, and then into landlessness,” she said.
Citing government’s report, she said the average farmgate price in April fell to P18.70 per kilo from its P20.55 per kilo level in 2018.
Farmers from various provinces, such as Nueva Ecija, reported that farm gate fell to P13 to P14 per kilo, in Isabela at P16, in Laguna at P14 to P15, in South Cotabao at P14 per kilo, she cited.
“Government data are conservative as they only record already those being dried up at the mills or at the possession of the traders, and neglects the farmers’ stock at the barrio level,” Estavillo said.
“We urge the people, farmers, consumers and other stakeholders to decry the destructive impact of RA 11203,” she said.
She expressed fear that the destructive impact on local rice production would be rapid as the Department of Trade and Industry disclosed that the arrival of imported rice would be as swift as three to four weeks, as compared to two to three months through the National Food Authority.
According to Bantay Bigas, there were 2.6 million metric tons of imported rice that entered the local market this year.
“Imported rice will eat up as much as a fifth or 20 percent of the supply in the market, this will throw rice self-sufficiency swiftly into 80 percent from the already 95 percent, and totally destroy self-reliance,” she said