MANILA, Philippines — Rice farmers are reeling from declining farmgate prices as cheap imported rice continues to flood the market five months after the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law.
Farmers and rice sufficiency advocates have warned of further industry setbacks if farmgate prices continue to decline amid surging rice importation.
“It is obvious why we have been opposing the law – the farmers’ situation did not improve even after five months of implementing RA 11203. Instead it is worsening, primarily due to depressed farmgate prices of palay that did not even reach P20 per kilo,” Cathy Estavillo, Bantay Bigas spokesperson and Amihan secretary-general, said.
“This is bankruptcy and inevitable displacement of farmers from rice lands. More small peasants will be transformed into helpless farm workers,” Estavillo said.
“Consequently, the productive rice lands will be converted into other uses, such as what is being carried out in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog, all benefiting landlords and real estate developers,” she said.
“This will be the legacy of the Duterte regime, a Philippines without rice lands or total displacement of rice farmers,” she warned.
“If the ‘rule of thumb’ shall be applied, farmgate prices should be at P23 to P29 per kilo, or P20 to P25,” Estavillo added.
She also said the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) is not enough to reverse the farmers’ plight. “To show that there is government support to affected rice farmers, they are using RCEF. RCEF is only allocated P10 billion, and only a measly 10 percent is alloted to credit,” she said.
The current industry situation, she said, is threatening the country’s food security.
“Destroying our national food security is a serious crime against the people, as it is synonymous to throwing millions of poor Filipinos into hunger or starvation and declining household income,” she said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Pangilinan has filed a resolution seeking a Senate inquiry into the impact of the Rice Tariffication Law on farmers and the local rice industry.
“Farmers tell us that their earnings dropped further with the implementation of the law. The impact on our farmers is swift and brutal but the implementation of the provisions aimed at easing this severe effect is slow if non-existent,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan said rice farmers are discouraged from toiling in the farms because their produce are purchased at lower prices, and despite the rice imports and the lower palay prices, consumers still buy at high prices.