Imee: Rice Farmers Left High And Dry Amid Wet Season Harvest

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Senator Imee Marcos has pointed to the lack of drying machines and storage facilities for the losses that rice farmers are suffering amid October’s wet-season harvest.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, said rice farmers who were selling their wet palay at 15 pesos per kilo weeks earlier where now selling below their average production cost of 12 pesos per kilo.

“Local rice farmers are no longer thinking of profit, just cutting their losses and paying back their debts. They’ve been left high and dry amid the wet-season harvest,” Marcos said.

The lowest farmgate price of 10 pesos per kilo was reported in the Bicol region and Capiz, and was ranging at 11 to 13 pesos in other rice-producing provinces.

“Production cost also goes up by one to two pesos per kilo if a farmer avails of a drying machine at the nearest coop, apart from having to line up with so many others,” Marcos said.

In Nueva Ecija, the rice bowl of Central Luzon, the cost of hired labor has also increased amid the rains, from 10 cavans to 15 cavans for every 100 cavans harvested.

“Some rice farmers are opting to put off harvesting amid the rains, rather than pay more for labor and sell at a loss to rice traders,” Marcos said, citing farmer complaints reaching her office.

“They’re now drying what palay they could fit into their own homes. What becomes discolored from moisture is later sold cheaply as broken rice or duck feed,” Marcos added.

Nor could farmers avail of the government’s higher buying price of 19 pesos per kilo when the National Food Authority (NFA) repeatedly rejected their produce as exceeding the 14% moisture content requirement.

“The truth is, the warehouses are full of imported rice. The NFA, following corruption allegations, suffered budget cuts and had already spent most of its funding at the start of the pandemic. There’s hardly any money now to purchase the main harvest,” Marcos pointed out.

Farmers also complained about the uneven application of the law against drying palay along public roads, saying that rice traders were doing so right under the noses of local government officials, after buying their palay at a huge discount.

Marcos appealed to the Department of Agriculture to provide more drying machines and set up storage facilities which will prevent bountiful wet-season harvests from going to waste and allow rice farmers to sell dry palay for better prices.

In the meantime, Marcos is pushing to schedule rice imports outside of the country’s harvest seasons in March-April and September-October, so that farmers don’t have to compete with unrestricted importation under the Rice Tariffication Law.

Marcos reiterated her position that local farmers can produce 93% of the country’s rice needs and that national food security should not rely on cheap imports that were subject to the changing priorities of exporting countries.