“This is issue is fundamental, for decades, rice farmers have been always receiving the lowest share in the rice industry while doing the hardest. The Aquino government should immediately implement reforms or face the looming unrest among rice farmers,” said Joseph Canlas, AMGL Chairperson.
Based from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), Central Luzon rice farmers produced the biggest share in local rice supply last year, reaching to 2.6 million metric tons or 15.68% of the country’s total of 16.7 million metric tons. Half of the region’s yield was contributed by Nueva Ecija reaching to 1.3 million metric tons.
AMGL said that on irrigated rice lands, cost of production per hectare amounts to P55,015, but could shoot up a 41% more (about 500 liters at P44.75/L when the study was conducted), making the cost at P77,390 if farmers are forced to used motorpumps to irrigate their farms. The group’s study stated that of the P55,000 cost level, land rent comprise 18%, usury or interest to loans (interest of 1-cavan per P1,000-loan) 11%, chemical inputs 23%, labor 18%, treshing 10%, rental of machineries 4%, seeds 1%, irrigation 3%, food expenses 12%. While at the case of using motor pumps for irrigation, fuel comprise 29% of the P77,000 cost level.
On the income aspect, the average yield per hectare is at 100-cavans of palay, valued at P750 per cavan (farmgate price of P15/kg) or about P75,000. Net income would range to P19,985 for the 4-month cultivation or about P5,000 per a month. But with the use of motor pumps for irrigation, they would be indedted by P2,400 or P600 per month.
“Numbers are clear that rice farmers are financially broke as cost of production incessantly increases, with the systematic increase in oil prices and other basic commodities, they are put into deep indedtedness and misery, thus, the demand to increase the price of palay is obviously just and urgent,” Canlas said.
AMGL has joined the nationwide demand for the government to increase the National Food Authority’s (NFA) buying price be increased to P20 per kg. The call is led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), AMGL’s national organization. The group said that the increase would pull-up the buying rate of private palay traders bringing a lift on the income of the farmers. The P20 per kg level would give rice farmers a net income of P45,000 for the 4 months or about P10,000 per month. It would also create a buffer for rice farmers against the continuing rise on the cost of fuel, chemical inputs and other basic goods.
Alongwith their demand, the group warned that the farmers’ moral and legitimate demand should not be used as justification to increase the retail price of rice. The group said that farmgate price of rice is not mainly the basis for the price of rice but the control of private traders on the supply chain of the rice industry.
“We remind the government to avoid using that old argument as we all have experienced that though farmgate price of palay is at low, retail price continued to rise up. In addition, rice imports continue to flood the local market that is supposedly to result a decline on retail price, but it did not take place,” Canlas said.
AMGL said that the responsibility lies on the government to reform the rice industry and create an economic atmosphere limiting the control of traders to dictate farmgate and retail prices. The group is also anticipating the announced dialogue of agriculture secretary Prospero Alcala with the rice farmers.
“With the programs being implemented by the government, the country would face a definite shortage in rice supply as productive rice lands are being subjected to massive land use conversion,” Canlas said.
The group said that Central Luzon experienced a 12% drop in palay production last year, or about 342,332 metric tons slump. It is notable that provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan and Tarlac declined by 21%, 24% and 20%, respectively. The region’s rice harvested area also shrunk by 65,000-hectares, in Pampanga by almost 16,000-has., Bulacan 19,000-has. and Tarlac 16,700-hectares.
“The provinces with declining rice production are clearly those being targeted for massive LUC, through the government’s Central Luzon Regional Development Program or CLRDP,” Canlas said.
AMGL also warned the Aquino government on its implementing the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program, particularly the construction of Central Luzon Expressway (CLEx) and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) as it would affect the country’s rice granary provinces such as Nueva Ecija contributing 7.87% of the local rice supply and Pangasinan 5.74%.
“If the Aquino government is unable to reform the rice industry and protect our local rice supply, he is actually threatening the country and putting all of us to a looming food shortage,” Canlas said. #