Farmers cannot be on the losing end if the national government decides to lower the price of rice, the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. said Thursday.
Farmers are seeking two things—to lower the prices of rice for the consumer, but also to ensure farm gate prices remain high, PCAFI president Danilo Fausto told ABS-CBN.
This comes a day after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he is getting closer to his campaign promise of having rice sell for P20 a kilo while acknowledging that more needs to be done to make it a reality.
“We cannot lower the farm gate prices for the farmers because their costs are P12 [per kilo] because of the high prices of fertilizer and fuel. We cannot allow that farmers do not earn. No one will plant if they don’t earn,” Fausto said.
Government must give financial aid to farmers if it wants to bring down the price of rice, he added.
“What is happening now is government intervention. (Farmers) can bring down (the price) as much, as low as they can, as long as the government has money to subsidize the losses. We cannot sacrifice the welfare of farmers against the welfare of consumers. It has to be win-win,” the chamber chief said.
Mr. Marcos, concurrently the country’s agriculture chief, said rice being sold in Kadiwa stalls and the National Food Authority (NFA) is pegged at P25 per kilogram.
“You can see that we are getting closer to our goal of P20 a kilo but let’s take it slowly. We’ll get there,” he said in Filipino at the launch of the “Kadiwa ng Pasko” project on Wednesday.
The Kadiwa ng Pasko project was designed to address inflation by providing the people with affordable goods especially during the holiday season in coordination with the Department of Agriculture as the lead agency, Malacanang said.
Fourteen sites were opened simultaneously across the country on Wednesday, including 11 in the National Capital Region, one in Tacloban City, one in Davao De Oro, and one in Koronadal City, South Cotabato.
The President was joined by First Lady Louise Araneta-Marcos.
The program aims to provide a market for farmers and fishers for their produce without having to go through traders and middlemen.
Organizers expect them to have better income and, at the same time, provide the public access to more affordable, accessible, and high-quality merchandise.
The President said he hoped Filipinos would support the program, which aims to effectively promote the growth of local agricultural markets.
The Department of Agriculture, which Marcos also heads, said local commercial rice sells for between P38 and P50 per kilo.
“Life was really difficult for all of us, but there are ways to help. We will continue this even after Christmas. This is one of the ways the government can help the people,” the President said.
“As your government, we cannot do anything with the rising prices. We can’t do anything because the soaring prices of commodities were brought by external forces that we cannot control, but we are helping with the people’s capacity to buy,” he added.
Earlier this month, Mr. Marcos approved the importation of cheap fertilizer worth at least P4.16 billion from China that will be given to farmers for free as a subsidy in a bid to support them while lowering food prices.
Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) President and Chief Executive Officer Emmie Liza Perez-Chiong said her agency plans to buy an initial 150,000 metric tons of fertilizer this year from China at $470 per MT, for a total of $70.5 million or P4.16 billion, through a government-to-government arrangement.
The purchase is significantly lower than the current price of $650 per MT.
Mr. Marcos likewise directed Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno to extend the sovereign guarantee to PTIC’s P1 billion credit line from government-owned LandBank
“I will also ask LandBank to allow DA to use its idle warehouses for the stockpiling of fertilizers,” the President said.
With the much lower cost, DA will be able to buy around 2.277 million bags of urea to be given to farmers through farmers’ groups and cooperatives.