Manila, Philippines – “The National Food Authority (NFA) fails to downplay the trend of depressed farm gate prices of palay when the farmers all over the country are telling the same story,” Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women and Anakpawis Partylist national secretary general Cathy Estavillo said in a statement as a response to NFA Administrator Judy Dansal’s statement in a news program that the P10 per kilo farm gate price of palay is not true.

The groups reported earlier that farm gate price of palay went down to as low as P10 per kilo to P14.50 per kilo.

“Sinasabi ni Dansal na P14 per kilo ang average farm gate price ng palay pero hindi ibig sabihin nito na walang mas mababa pa sa P14. Kahit pa sabihing P18 kada kilo ang bili ng NFA sa palay, hindi ito signipikante dahil hindi lalampas sa 4 percent ang procurement rate ng NFA sa kabuuang produksyon nitong nakaraang 2 taon,” Estavillo added.

Based on the 2020 annual report of NFA, it has procured a total of 13,467,645 bags or 673,382 metric tons of palay which is only about 3.5 percent of the 19.3 million MT total rice production in 2020. In 2019, NFA bought 731,745 MT of palay or 3.8 percent of the total 18.82 million MT rice production.

Estavillo, who is also the spokesperson of the rice watch group Bantay Bigas, stressed that most farmers could not sell their palay to NFA because of the added transportation cost and the required classification including the moisture content and purity.

“Most of our rice farmers don’t have access to drying facilities making it impossible to attain the required 14 percent moisture content. Dahil tumaas ang gastos sa produksyon, tumaas ang presyo ng abono, lalong hindi kakayanin ng mga maralitang magsasaka na ibiyahe ang palay papunta sa mga NFA buying stations. Kaya nga ang panawagan natin, NFA na ang pumunta sa komunidad ng magsasaka para tiyak na mabili ang palay nila sa makatwirang presyo,” Estavillo said.

Moreover, the groups said that NFA rice priced at P27 and P32 per kilo have long been missing in public markets since the implementation of the RA 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law.

“Bihira kang makakakita ng P37 kada kilong bigas. Kung meron man, iba ang kulay at amoy. Karaniwan P38 hanggang P40 kada kilo. Sa panahon ngayon na maraming nawalan ng kabuhayan, marami talaga ang hirap makabili ng bigas,” Estavillo said.

“We can only blame the Duterte government’s liberalization of the rice industry. Ginawa nitong bodegero ang NFA sa halip na magregulate ng presyo ng bigas at mamili ng palay sa makatwirang halaga. Dahil nilimita ang mandate ng NFA sa buffer stocking, lalo pang napilayan ang buong industriya ng bigas ng bansa,” Estavillo added.

The groups said that with the meager budget allocated to NFA for 2022, NFA could barely procure 2 percent of the target total rice production for 2021.

Amihan, Bantay Bigas and Anakpawis has been calling for the repeal of the RA 11203 and pushing for the alternative HB 477 or the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) which aims to ensure preservation of rice lands, production support and post-harvest facilities, and the strengthening of the NFA to ensure rice self-sufficiency and food security.

The NFA celebrated its 49th anniversary last September 26. ###

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