DA: DBM releases P2.462B for rice competitiveness fund

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    By Jed Aldous Macapagal

    The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released P2.462 billion for two component programs of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) last week, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.

    DBM, through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council, released P244 million to the Development Bank of the Philippines and P180 million to the Land Bank of the Philippines for the RCEF-credit program to be loaned out to individual farmers and DA-accredited cooperatives and associations.

    For the RCEF-seed program, DBM also released to the Philippine Rice Research Institute P2.038 billion to promote, acquire and distribute certified seeds.

    DA also said funds for the mechanization and extension services programs will be available soon following the issuance of the special allotment release order to the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization, Agricultural Training Institute and Technical Skills Development Authority.

    Likewise, seed distribution will start next month for dry season 2019-2020 which will cover 57 provinces, with a total area of more than 1 million hectares. A farmer will receive a maximum of 80 kilograms of certified inbred rice seeds for two consecutive seasons depending on the size of the farm.

    William Dar, DA secretary, said agreements with local seed grower associations and cooperatives as seed suppliers are in place to ensure the availability and positioning of seeds for October to December distribution.

    Earlier, several business groups urged the government to continue the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) even if it is being criticized, saying this will benefit the country and the entire agriculture sector in the long run.

    The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Bankers Association of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Foundation for Economic Freedom, Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines said “from the birth pains” of RTL, “a new, vibrant and modern Philippine agriculture sector will emerge.”

    They mentioned that RTL favors tariff as a trade instrument over quantitative restrictions as it is more transparent compared to government-to-government transactions.

    Apart from the anti-corruption feature, they said it also helps alleviate poverty and high level of malnutrition since it will lower the cost of rice in the market, which will also help maintain low inflation levels.

    The RTL allots P10 billion each year for the next six years for programs to reduce the production cost of rice farmers and make them more competitive against imports.