As farmers are again deploring the falling price of rice just when harvest times  commences, the Department of Agriculture Bicol through its Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla met over the week with the officials of the National Food Authority, and the  managers/operators of the Rice Processing Centers to come up with collaborative action  to mitigate the problem. 

In a meeting with NFA official, Regional Manager, Edna R. de Guzman bared that their procurement budget and allocation has been increased this cropping and the buying price is fixed at P19.00 per kilo for clean and dried palay but they don’t have enough trucks to haul palay from the field, they lack drying facilities and their warehouses cannot accommodate all the palay stocks they are buying.

Dir. Tornilla and Regional Technical Director for Operations Luz R. Marcelino thus offered logistical support through deployment to the NFA four (4) of its hauling trucks currently assigned in its provincial research stations and those in the regional office to be used for the palay procurement operations: 2 in Camarines Sur; 1 in Albay; 1 in Camarines Norte 1 in Masbate. As the DA has no truck deployed in its Research Outreach Station in Sorsogon hiring of a private truck was offered as an option. The DA will be the one to assign the drivers and pay for their TEVS and gasoline will likewise be provided on its first trip or deployment. Moreover, the DA offered the NFA to utilize the available and operational postharvest machineries and facilities and will link NFA to the DA-funded Rice Processing Centers being operated by cooperatives and farmers.

Aside from the warehouse and building these RPCs are equipped with recirculating dryers for 6-ton capacity, multi-pass rice mill and multi-purpose drying pavement and also provided with a Php 1 million capitalization for the procurement of palay. These palay are milled and sold by the coop or association as rice. According to Adelina Losa, chief, of the Agribusiness Marketing and Assistance Division, these RPCs could serve as buying stations and absorb some of the palay from local farmers and can help stabilize the price of palay. There are now 30 RPCs operational in the Bicol region.

Aside from these RPCs farmers can also utilize available postharvest facilities already distributed by the DA-Bicol namely; 21 units Recirculating Dryers, 136 units Flatbed dryers; and 35 units multi-purpose drying pavements.

In a separate meeting with the operators and managers of the RPCs Director Tornilla calls on them and other partners of the DA to prioritize first and foremost the welfare of the rice farmers and explore ways to buy the harvest of farmers higher than the prevailing buying price of private traders. He encouraged the RPCs to complement DA’s and NFA’S efforts to stabilize the price of the local palay grains by making available   their postharvest facilities even to farmers who are not their members. He likewise urged the RPCs to participate in the farm clustering and consolidation (about 100 hectares) to improve their bargaining power, forge stronger linkages among agri-producer and markets and achieve the benefits of economies of scale. He emphasized “that collaborative efforts are urgently needed at this time not only as partners of the DA but as one family, because at the end of the day we are all affected by the ups and downs of the rice industry”

According to Adelina A. Losa, chief of the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division the DA  will also help in the campaign for farmers to sell their palay to the NFA and at the same time link the RPCs to institutional buyers who procure milled rice in great volume such as the jails under the supervision of the Bureau of Jail and Management, the DSWD which maintains a buffer stock of rice to be distributed during  calamities; some hospitals who maintain their canteen and serve food for their patients and other government and private institutions like the PNP and banks who provide rice allowance to their employees, and the LGUs who provide rice to their constituents especially during calamities and emergencies like the Covid 19.

Possible partnership with Pasig Agricultural Development Supply Corporation (PADISCOR) and rice farmers of Camarines Sur is also being worked out. For the past three years price of fresh and dry palay decrease to about P1.75/KG from P16.37/kg in 2017 to P14.80/kg in 2020 for fresh palay while for dry palay from P19.61/KG in 2017 to 16.4/kg in 2020 which occur usually as the peak of the harvest time for the wet season cropping nears and the rainy season takes its toll on the quality of palay grains compounded by the influx of imported rice. (Emily B. Bordado/DA-RAFIS 5)