The Department of Agriculture on Tuesday said it was not capable of procuring palay or unmilled rice from local farmers due to budget constraints, but said the DA was coordinating with other agencies to address the low farmgate prices of the commodity.
According to Agriculture Secretary William Dar, the agency was in talks with the National Food Authority (NFA) to procure the palay from local farmers given the agency’s available budget.
“Wala po kaming mandato na bibili ng palay. Hindi ho namin kaya. Malaki ‘yung budget,” Dar told reporters in a virtual briefing.
(We have no mandate to buy palay. We have no capacity. The budget needed is substantial.)
This comes after the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) called on the DA to buy palay from local farmers at P19 per kilogram for dry, and P16 per kilogram for fresh harvest.
The group said farmgate prices of palay have plunged to P10-P13 per kilogram, way below the production cost of P15 per kilogram. NFA data shows that its buying price for palay is at P19 per kilogram for both individual farmers and farmer organizations.
Dar said the DA was also in coordination with local government units and multipurpose cooperatives, encouraging them to procure palay from local farmers.
The DA said it was also possible to align the funds for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for 2022 with the NFA to buy palay for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
“We were working with them and the discussions are almost in the final stage. Last quarter, the budget for the rice subsidy na binibigay nila dati na pera sa GAA 2021 ay pwedeng ibigay sa NFA kung may critical level of prices that are too low for the farmers,” said Dar.
(Last quarter, the budget for the rice subsidy that they gave under the GAA 2021 could be given to the NFA if there is a critical level of prices that is too low for the farmers.)
Dar said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is also looking into the matter, and the DA is scheduled to hold discussions with local traders and millers regarding the issue on Wednesday, September 29. — DVM, GMA News