Says incoming government needs P40 billion to avert the impending grain crisis
top official of the Department of Agriculture said the incoming administration needs to earmark as much as P40 billion to avert an impending supply shortage of rice as he warned the country is facing not just a food crisis but a global food catastrophe.
“The food crisis might be felt towards the end of the year…We are giving a warning to the next administration, we do not know if the supply of rice in the second half of the year will be enough… If we do not give aid to farmers for fertilizer there might be a problem,” said Agriculture Undersecretary Fermin Adriano in a radio interview Saturday.
“World leaders are discussing that this is not only a looming food crisis but a food catastrophe,” he said, pointing to the supply disruption triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Adriano said that there might be a contraction of 1.1 million metric tons in palay output.
“We will need around P30 billion to P40 billion to ensure that the supply of rice in the country would be sufficient,” Adriano said.
DA..Under the Rice Tariffication Law, rice import duties are used to finance the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund for farmers to cover farm mechanization, seed development, propagation and promotion, credit assistance, and extension services.
“By removing quantitative restrictions, we are able to address both the needs of consumers for a lower retail price of rice and use the tariff revenues to fund the RCEF and provide even more assistance to farmers with excess tariff revenues,” Socioeconomic Planning and NEDAchief Karl Kendrick Chua said.
Chua described the law, which many farmer groups have blamed for declining palay prices and lower local production, as “the best model that we have to help both farmers and consumers.”
“Last year, we collected P18.9 billion from rice tariff collections.
We gave all that back to rice farmers. Those calling for the removal of the RTL risk taking away what we are giving to farmers to improve their productivity. Further lowering the price of rice for all Filipinos is really possible if we help farmers improve productivity.
That is exactly what the RTL is doing by providing them with mechanization, seeds, and other support,” Chua said.
Earlier, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the looming food crisis is due to the expected increases in the prices of farm inputs during the second semester of 2022, aggravated by the effects of the pandemic and rising fuel prices.
“But we’re prepared to handle this. We have a directional plan to handle these big challenges,” he said.
The plan is part of a proposed P250 billion budget that the DA aims to forward to the transitional camp of presumptive president Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
To alleviate the effects of fuel spikes, Dar said the DA has doubled the fuel subsidy allotted to farmers and fishermen to P1.1 billion. The subsidy will benefit corn farmers as well as the fishing communities.
But the country’s biggest food group—the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. (PCAFI)—said food production recovery for the Philippines was not within sight, at least for the next eight years, due to challenges in the local agriculture sector.
The Department of Trade and Industry, for its part, said it could not keep the prices of some commodities low because the cost of raw materials had increased.
“We cannot stop the price from moving because the price of raw materials also increased. These are the products’ major ingredients,” Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said.
Castelo said only the prices of 82 basic necessities and prime commodities in the suggested retail price bulletin had an increase out of their 212 stock keeping units.
Dar urged the public to help increase food production in the country by trying urban farming methods.
“We must be prepared, each Filipino, if possible, let’s all plant, raise, fish, here in urban areas. If there’s a way to increase the production of our farmers and fishers, let’s do it. We also have to do it, we, as citizens,” he said.