PILI, CAMARINES SUR – To address the plummeting farmgate price of palay, the Task Force on Rice crafted action plans to help Bicolano rice farmers. In a meeting presided by Department of Agriculture-Bicol Rice and Corn Program Coordinator Lorenzo L. Alvina on September 11, 2019 at the DA-Bicol Compound, this municipality, the Task Force on Rice agreed to pool concerned agencies’ resources in providing immediate interventions.

Among the Task Force’s top priorities are providing logistics support during the peak of harvesting season by the DA National Food Authority; intensifying joint venture as well as private and public partnership. With the DA Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division as lead agency, in collaboration with the Rice Processing Centers (RPCs), Chambers of Commerce and the Palaya Agri Ventures, a company dedicated to reduce poverty, increase the income of farmers and farm workers through improved productivity and competitiveness of the livestock industry in the Philippines. Other immediate action plans will be the establishment and identification of pick up points for faster and easier collection of palay by NFA and private corporations. This will be facilitated by the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), RPCs, FCAs, local government units and partner buyers. The Department of Trade and Industry, Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS), LGUs and Municipal Agriculture Offices will take charge of proper source labeling of rice products in the market. The Philippine Information Agency (PIA) as well as all agencies and stakeholders will advocate buying of local rice to support Bicolano rice farmers.

The DA-Bicol, Department of Agrarian Reform and private investors are also planning to adopt the Rice Model Farm and similar projects to help reduce the rice farmers’ production cost. Meanwhile, the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will be at the forefront in accelerating Cash for Work Programs for affected rice farmers. The Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) also commit to simplify existing procedures to expedite smallholder farmers’ crop insurance claims, particularly in areas declared under State of Calamity. 

At the said meeting, the Regional Agricultural Fishery Council also presented its Technical Working Group on Rice Policy Resolutions which recommended enhancing market linkage with the DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), amending the DA-NFA incentive scheme, increasing production-related costs’ PCIC insurance coverage, and implementing additional mitigation measures to alleviate the plight of affected rice farmers.

Palaya Agri Ventures, as promised, has started buying fresh palay in Libmanan, Camarines Sur at P3.00 higher than the prevailing market price. The company has committed to procure around 25 metric tons of fresh palay per week starting on the third week of September. The company picked up palay directly from the farm to be delivered to Metro Manila.

The Task Force on Rice was created by the Regional Development Council, the highest policy-making body in the region chaired by Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal, during its third quarter meeting held on September 6, 2019 to develop strategies to help Bicolano rice farmers cope with the drop in palay prices. The Task Force is composed of different government agencies including DA, CDA, DSWD, NFA, NIA, RAFC, PMS, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).  

Comparative data from DA-Bicol AMAD shows that as of September 2019, the average local buying price of fresh play dipped by P3 to P5 and P2.50 to P7.00 for dry palay from 2017-2019. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS V with reports from Arra Nicole Nicolas, DA Rice Program Report Officer)