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RCEF funds not enough to cover farmers’ losses from Rice Tariffication law —NGO

Non-government organization Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF) called on the government to earmark more funds for financial assistance to farmers who are bearing the brunt of the Rice Tariffication Act.

IRDF executive director Arze Glipo on Wednesday said the P10 billion allotted to the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF) is not enough.

“RCEF is not enough to offset the huge losses to farmers estimated at a high of P118 billion and a low of P60 billion,” Glipo said during a roundtable discussion in Quezon City.

Established in 1989, the IRDF was mandated to implement development programs that will contribute to social and economic empowerment of marginalized and vulnerable sectors such as farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, women, and youth.

The Rice Tariffication Law removed the quantitative restrictions on rice imports and imposed a 35% tariff on imports from Southeast Asia. It also mandated the creation of RCEF to help rice farmers in the face of unrestricted flow of imported rice into the country.

The P10-billion RCEF fund includes P5 billion allotted to farm mechanization, and P3 billion to procure seedlings.

The fund intends to ensure that rice imports won’t drown out the agriculture sector and rob farmers of their livelihood.

Should this be divided equally among local farmers, they will only receive a financial assistance of P4,000 each, Glipo noted.

“That’s P4,000. Ang losses ng ating farmer sa isang cropping is umaabot ng mga P25,000 to P30,000,” she said.

“May ibibigay na P15,000 na emergency loan, but that’s only for 100,000 farmers to 150,000 farmers. So where is the justice in this?” she emphasized.

The government last month increased the price in buying palay or unmilled rice from local farmers, but removed incentives local farmers were enjoying.

Starting September, the National Food Authority (NFA) started to procure palay from local farmers at P19 per kilogram.

While the NFA’s buying price was set at P20.70, as the NFA Council decided to remove the P3.70 of incentives given to farmers.

The P3.70 incentive covers P3 buffer stocking fee, 20 centavos delivery fee, 20 centavos drying fee, and 30 centavos cooperative incentive fee.

NFA Administrator Judy Carol Dansal said the incentives were removed due to limited funds.

IRDF’s Glipo said the government must increase the budget for the NFA to procure more palay from local farmers at a higher price, and for the Department of Agriculture (DA) to provide additional financial assistance.

“Ang panawagan ngayon, dapat dagdagan ‘yung pondo nila para mabili nila ‘yung mas maraming bilang, volume. Kailangan lakihan ang budget,” she told GMA News Online on the sidelines of the roundtable discussions.

“Nasa P20 dapat minimum ‘yung presyo ng palay, kaya ‘yung nakuha (ng farmers) nung nakaraan na P20, dahil andun din ‘yung NFA bumili ng P20, sinundan ng mga traders ‘yung presyo, doon may mga naitabi sila para sa mga pangangailangan nila, pambayad sa mga pangungutang nila, at meron din silang panggastos,” she added. —VDS, GMA News