To ease the impact of liberalization, Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Friday said the government is set to grant rice farmers a one-time cash gift of P5,000 in December.
READ: Give farmers cash aid from rice tariff — Kiko
The Cabinet, he said, had earlier ruled out a “safeguard duty” on imported rice as inflationary and opted instead to extend cash assistance to farmers.
About 600,000 rice farmers stand to benefit from the financial assistance, which will amount to P3 billion, he said.
Under the Rice Tariffication Law, quantitative restrictions on rice imports were removed in favor of tariffs.
As a result, imported rice has flooded the market, lowering farmgate prices of palay to the detriment of farmers.
The law provides the creation of a Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund to help farmers face the unrestricted flow of imported rice into the country.
The P10-billion RCEF fund includes P5 billion allotted to farm mechanization, and P3 billion for seedling procurement.
Dar said the assistance would be for farmers tilling less than one hectare.
Close to P11 billion has already been collected from rice importations.
In a statement, Dar said more local government units have committed their support to embattled rice farmers as average farmgate price of palay (unhusked rice) slid further to a new eight-year low.
Some 23 provincial local government units have committed a total of P4.95 billion for processing and marketing palay directly bought from farmers to help them cope with the continued drop in farmgate prices.
Initially, LGUs of the country’s top rice-producing provinces—Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Cagayan, and Bataan—committed funding for the palay procurement and assistance program.
Kalinga, Mt. Province, Marinduque, Iloilo, Capiz, Bohol, Biliran, Zamboanga Sibugay, Sarangani and Agusan del Norte followed suit.
“Our efforts to partner with our provincial governors are now coming into fruition as we jointly help prop up palay prices. Through this, we hope to provide a sure market for the produce of our rice farmers at a fairly competitive price at least for this season in these provinces,” Dar said.
Senator Imee Marcos, meanwhile, urged President Rodrigo Duterte to order a temporary halt to rice importation to help local farmers.
Marcos issued the call after learning from a hearing that the rice in the warehouses of rice traders all came from other Asian countries.
Marcos said farmers have been hurt by the imported rice flooding the market under the Rice Tariffication Law. With Macon Ramos-AranetaREAD: Villar wants rice farmers to avail of 4Ps benefits
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