Manila, Philippines – “This harvest season, rice farmers suffered another blow of depressed farm gate prices when they sell palay (unhusked rice) falling to as low as P10 per kilo in Occidental Mindoro. Moreover, they were from P12 to P14.50 per kilo in Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Camarines Sur, Ilocos Norte, as reported by our chapters. We again blame this chronic crisis in palay farm gate prices to the Rice Liberalization Law, that Duterte forcefully enacted,” Cathy Estavillo, Secretary-General of Amihan and Anakpawis Party-list.

As of this writing, the reported P14 per kilo farmgate price of palay yesterday in Occidental Mindoro even dropped to P13.50 per kilo this morning.

The groups, with Bantay Bigas rice watch group added that depressed farm gate prices were dictated by monopoly private traders who were reaping giant profits from the liberalized rice market, or without government regulation. Their dominant position to dictate prices was bolstered by the enactment of Republic Act No. 11203 Rice Liberalization Law, as it decoupled the National Food Authority (NFA) from purchasing palay whose buying price is supposed to be a regulatory mechanism. The groups added that the law caused P165 billion worth of losses to rice farmers from 2019 to 2020, all brought about by depressed farm gate prices alone.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) latest report on farmgate prices this 1st half of the year, it has dropped by 2.8% at P16.94 per kilo, compared to P17.42 per kilo of last year’s. The groups said that the during the same period last year, farmgate prices in Cagayan and Sorsogon was P10 and P11 per kilo, respectively.

“We have documented cases of rice farmers in Cagayan who endured more than P11,300 losses per hectare last October 2020 due to low farmgate price at P10 per kilo which remains the current price today. In Nueva Ecija, farmers were forced to sell or pawn their land due to bankruptcy,” Estavillo added.

For his part, Anakpawis Party-list National President and former representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao warned that continued bankruptcy of rice farmers is dangerous to the country, as it would eventually led to their displacement from farms, and falling productivity. She pinpointed that undermining food security, self-sufficiency and self-reliance in food is a major crime against the people of the Duterte administration that upheld a neoliberal policy for the rice sector, institutionalized by the Rice Liberalization Law.

He urged various sectors to intervene against the catastrophic trend of depressed farm gate prices of palay. The former lawmaker called out to both branches of the legislative to enact the House Bill No. 477 Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA), filed by the Makabayan bloc lawmakers, for the attainment of self-sufficiency and food security in the country. It is proposing the three-year P185 billion allocation for the rice development plan, and annual P103 billion for palay procurement of the NFA. RIDA was originally filed by Casilao during the 17th congress, and was a result of numerous consultations to various rice farmer groups and stakeholders.

“The issue of falling farm gate prices of palay is beyond the rice farmer sector. It is a primary concern of the whole population. If we allow our food frontliners to go bankrupt and be displaced from production, it is certain that we are all heading towards hunger and import food dependence. We urge everyone to act against further liberalizing the rice sector, and instead, push for a nationalist and democratic program to protect the Philippine rice industry,” the groups ended. ###

Photo by Bulatlat.

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