A lawmaker on Wednesday called for a P3,000 increase in the cash aid for rice farmers.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chair of the House committee on ways and means, raised the call in the wake of a drastic hike in the revenue from tariff collected from rice importation. He noted a 22-percent surge in tariff collections last year, resulting in a total of P18.9 billion in tariff collections for 2021.
Salceda said the cash aid for rice farmers should be increased from P5,000 to P8,000. He said the increase in cash assistance corresponding to the increase in tariff revenues should cover increasing costs of fertilizers and fuel.
“The Department of Agriculture releases free machines under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund. Of course, that is all good for yield, but rising fuel costs also mean more fuel expenses for more mechanized rice farms,” Salceda said in a statement.
Citing the Fertilizer Price Index, Salceda, said year-on-year fertilizer prices have grown by 141 percent. “Rice is a fertilizer-dependent segment of the agriculture, so rice farmers are especially hard-hit by the spike in fertilizer prices.”
Given the rise in the cost of these basic inputs,“ and considering that the Rice Tariffication Law does not have explicitly written down programs for these, the legroom for aiding farmers in these pains is through an increase in the rice farmer cash assistance.”
On September 4, 2019, Salceda being the chair of the House ways and means committee proposed to Secretary Dar and the House that cash grants be given to small rice farmers. This is just two weeks after Secretary William Dar took over as Secretary.
The following year, as vice chair of the House appropriations committee, Salceda led the insertion of the language in the Department of Agriculture budget that would enable the first tranche of the program, before it was institutionalized under Republic Act 11598.
In 2022, rice farmers tilling two hectares or less are set to receive P5,000 in unconditional cash assistance under the program.
Salceda estimates that the cost of fertilizer per hectare of rice has risen by P4,356. “The cash transfer will cover the just the increase
in the cost of fertilizer. So, rice farmers need a bit of breathing room.
Actually, tariff collections above the P10 billion mandated by RCEF for earmarked programs have increased by 61 percent. So, arguably, you can increase the rice farmer cash assistance by around as much,” Salceda added.
“That would make the cash transfer P8,000 instead of just P5,000,” Salceda said.