Gov’t to get ‘acts together’ to prepare for 2019 rice harvest
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said “getting their acts together”, all regional directors of the Department of Agriculture (DA), including officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) and Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), will gather in Davao City today to prepare a well coordinated plan for the first harvest season of 2019.
“The coordinative meeting is very critical because of NFA’s new role in the rice industry which limits its buffer stocking function to buying only locally produced paddy rice, instead of relying on importation,” Piñol said.
The NFA, which was placed back under the DA on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte four months ago, will now be supported by the DA in its procurement operations to ensure that it will be able to buy enough stocks for the buffer stocks to stabilize supply and at the same time protect farmers from exploitation by rice traders.
Piñol said with the lifting of the Quantitative Restriction on rice importation, which would open the Philippine market to supplies of rice other countries, Filipino rice farmers face the threat of a lower buying price for their produce.
He said the problem confronting farmers in dealing with NFA now is the lack of drying facilities, the delayed payments, and the inability of bring their buying operations to the field.
Added to that is the dependence of many farmers on community traders for their financing for the purchase of fertilizers, farm inputs and even personal needs.
To address these problems, Piñol said he will propose several interventions like the opening of a credit program for farmers who will sell their produce to the NFA at 2 percent interest, payable upon harvest and establishment by DA of drying facilities in NFA buying stations, which farmers could use for free or which NFA could use in drying freshly harvested paddy rice from farmers.
Piñol will also proposal a tie-up between the DA and NFA for the use of the Rice Processing Facilities established by the DA in about 200 areas all over the country and for PhilRice to coordinate with the DA by identifying the rice seed varieties adaptable to a specific area, focusing on at least three high-yielding rice varieties.