NAGA CITY --- To engage the support and involvement of the Local Government Units (LGUs) in addressing the dip in prices of palay, DA Bicol OIC Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla invited the governors and the provincial agriculturists for a meeting last September 10, 2019.
DA 5 OIC Director Tornilla echoed DA Secretary William Dar’s call for Provincial LGUs (PLGUs) to allocate funds to bankroll palay-buying, drying, milling and rice marketing. Tornilla also bared Secretary Dar’s arrangement with the Land Bank of the Philippines to open a loan window for palay procurement particularly to the PLGUs.
Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara expressed his support and shared his vision to put up rice milling and drying facilities to be operated by the PLGU in Albay. He however raised the issue on the conflict with the provisions of RA 9184 or the government procurement reform act if the PLGUs will engage in palay trading as the latter is only allowed by law to engage in business enterprise if there is a declaration of a state of calamity. The other PLGUs contended that based on their experiences, if an LGU has a business model and has allocated funds for its working capital, trading of agricultural products can be allowed. This is currently being implemented by the PLGU Cam. Norte in their AgriPinoy Pinoy Trading Center (APTC) located at Vinzons.
Other PLGUs are also conceptualizing their own business models to help in buying farmers’ palay this coming harvest season. Cam. Norte Provincial Agriculturist Almirante Abad said that they will buy palay using the business model employed by the APTC. In Sorsogon, Provincial Agriculturist Nestor Nava said that they are helping farmers reduce production cost by subsidizing or offering to farmers the use of the LGU’s facilities for free during land preparation and harvesting of palay. The respective provincial agriculturists of Masbate and Catanduanes admitted that they are not experiencing problems as the palay price has rather increased in these provinces.
Cam. Sur OIC Provincial Agriculturist Luzena Bermeo, on the other hand, said that the PLGU of Cam. Sur has already passed an ordinance in support to rice subsidy program. They will also buy palay from local farmers as Camarines Sur’s yearly consumption of rice for their local programs and projects can reach up to 75,000 bags.
During last week’s meeting with Agriculture Secretary William Dar, the PLGU of Cam. Sur represented by Congressman LRay Villafuerte pledged its support.
Camarines Sur is considered as the rice granary of the region having over 82,000 hectares of rice areas and attaining an annual rice production of more than 600,000 metric tons.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo Alvina, DA Rice and Corn Program regional coordinator, presented different models and good practices of PLGUs in other regions which have already started providing subsidy in palay-buying.
The Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD) presented a monthly monitoring report on the average local buying price of fresh and dry palay in Camarines Sur and Albay randomly gathered from commercial rice traders and DA funded Rice Processing Centers being operated by farmers’ associations. The report showed that in August, the buying price of dry palay in Camarines Sur was P18.15 and P14.47 for fresh (wet) palay. In Albay province, dry palay was bought at P18.38 while the fresh (wet) palay buying price was P13.61 last month.
Also present during the meeting were regional and provincial managers of the National Food Authority, representatives from the LBP, the Agricultural and Credit Policy Council (ACPC).
As an immediate assistance to rice farmers tilling less than one hectare and affected by dwindling palay price, the DA through the ACPC will give P15,000 SURE-AID loan to farmers payable in 8 years at zero (0) interest staring September 19. The DA will also continue to give incentives to farmers’ organizations that will sell their palay to NFA based on the number of bags sold. The DA regional office will however issue a new guidelines to reduce the number of bags required to avail of the incentives in the form of farm machineries. This incentive scheme is on a first come first served basis.