The Department of Agriculture (DA) through the National Food Authority (NFA) said it will procure more local palay even with a limited budget.
“We will continue to buy palay as high as P19 per kilograms (kg), at 14 percent moisture content, from our farmers to assure them of bigger earnings and if need be, pick up their produce at a designated area in their barangay,” said DA Secretary William Dar.
Dar said in a statement transport services will be offered to farmers who cannot deliver their produce to the agency’s warehouses and drying facilities.
Dar has instructed the NFA to immediately mill the procured palay and sell them to local government units (LGUs) or the Department of Social Welfare and Development to create a multiplier effect and enable the rolling over of the budget to buy more from farmers.
The NFA said it has P10 billion to procure 10 million bags of rice for the entire year.
This can increase if credit lines are tapped.
NFA has so far spent P3 billion in buying local palay.
It added on average, it procures 33,775 bags of palay daily at its support price of P19 per kg for dry.
Meanwhile, the DA said the local government units of the top 12 rice-producing provinces must help NFA buy palay direct from their farmer-constituents to stabilize prices in Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Iloilo, Camarines Sur, Tarlac, Negros Occidental, Maguindanao, Bukidnon, North Cotabato and Leyte.
Last year, these provinces produced more than 9.74 million metric tons (MT) of palay which is more than half of the country’s total harvest of 18.8 million MT.
NFA Central Luzon director Elvira Obaña said they they target to buy a total of 1,747,700 bags of palay from farmers in the region, starting this month till yearend.
But the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) said NFA’s budget, which could reach P14 billion if the remaining P7 billion is rolled over, can buy only736,842 MT of palay, which is less than 10 percent of the 9 million MT of palay harvest.
Rosendo So, SINAG chairman said P152 billion is needed for the DA to procure all palay harvest.
“The situation today is very different. It is very dire for our rice farmers because of the COVID pandemic and the deluge of imports courtesy of the Rice Tariffication Law,” said So, adding farmgate prices of palay ranges from P12.50 to P13.50 per kg.