November 20, 2020
Rather than a temporary food aid of P5,000 per farmer, farmers have pressed government to put up mechanical dryers for rice and corn which will have lasting benefit of raising the produce’s price per kilo and stretching their shelf life, enabling them to hedge on the stocks for a longer period.
While not directly opposing the P5,000 food aid program approved under a Senate resolution, the Philippine Maize Federation (PMFI) asked government for a more beneficial investment—that of putting up rice and corn mechanical dryers.
“We are not comfortable with the decision of government to impart the excess tariff collected from rice imports to farmers at P5,000 each. We view this as if government is promoting our farmers’ state of mendicancy,” said PMFI President Roger Navarro
PMFI, many of whose members also plant rice and representing other farmers belonging to Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc (PCAFI), said Filipino farmers deserve more “dignity and respect.”
Being a powerful investment tool, the money from excess rice tariff and whatever is approved by Congress under Bayanhan 2 should be used to empower farmers, according to PMFI.
“More funds should be invested for long range and sustainable projects that farmers badly need which are the post harvest and storage facilities,” said Navarro.
With higher quality dried corn and rice, farmers will be able to store their produce for a longer period of around one year. That enables them to trade on their rice and corn, hold them in storage and sell them when prices are higher compared to right when just harvested.
The farmers particularly refer to mechanical dryers that enable them to meet the National Food Authority’s (NFA) quality for buying palay. Paddy rice must have a moisture content of 14% so NFA may buy it at a higher price by at least P1 per kilo compared to those not properly dried. For corn, ideal moisture content is 15.5%.
While there is a substitute to mechanical dryers—concrete pavements or roads—these oftentimes render the product unclean with stones and other dirt. Worse, these cannot be used when it is raining.
“We can still see farmers drying their produce on the highways. We must resolve this problem first and foremost. This is a basic fundamental infrastructure intervention support that government should do. Or it will fail in its mandate and can therefore be charged for dereliction of duty,” said Navarro.
PMFI also asserted government should implement the Magna Carta for Small Farmers or Republic act 7607.
“Government failed to implement price support mechanism both for rice and corn which NFA used to do before the Rice Tarrification Law.”
The agriculture sector has been disappointed by government’s failure to implement the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) and its provisions.
In their letter to Department of Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, 58 farmers’ organizations led by Lawyer Jose Elias Inciong of the United Broilers and Raisers Association and Danilo Fausto of DVF Dairy Inc. (also PCAFI president) cited what has not been implemented under AFMA:
- Provision of responsive business information and trading services that link farmers to market
- Creation of a national marketing umbrella to generate highest income to farmers
- National Information Network (NIN) to be set up one year from AFMA’s enactment in 1997.
The NIN should provide industry data, similar to that being produced extensively by the United States DA (USDA). USDA extensively studies and reports even Philippines’ industry data.
“The NIN shall provide information and marketing services related to agriculture and fisheries which shall include the following: supply; demand; price and price trends; product standards for both fresh and processed agricultural and fisheries products; directory of, cooperatives, traders, key market centers, processors and business institutions.”
The NIN should also provide research information and technology generated from research institutions; international, regional and local market forecasts; and resource accounting data.
“The NIN shall likewise be accessible to the private sector engaged in agriculture and fisheries enterprises,“ according to Section 45.
The farmers’ groups said that DA’s budget for 2001-2004, 2011-2017, and 2018-2023 have not been consulted with the agriculture sector at all despite AFMA’s provision for this to be implemented.