Dar bares more interventions for affected rice farmers

MANILA -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) will be implementing more interventions to help rice farmers affected by a decline in palay prices.

In a media briefing in MalacaAang on Wednesday, DA Secretary William Dar said the National Food Authority (NFA) will speed up the turnaround of palay-rice stocks by up to four times, which will create a multiplier effect.

He also tasked the grains agency to focus and intensify palay-buying on areas where prices are low.

Dar also divulged that the DA will be forging a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to buy NFA rice to be given to Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P) beneficiaries nationwide in lieu of the PHP600 monthly rice cash allowance.

He said the DSWD is open to the idea of giving away rice bought from local farmers.

"Last week, we have been in touch with the DSWD Secretary, (the proposal is) why not give rice this time around? And they're open," Dar said.

This change to the government's conditional cash transfer (CCT) program could start as early as next quarter.

Likewise, the DA will convince other national government agencies to buy rice for their respective employees directly from farmers groups and cooperatives.

The agriculture chief said he will also urge multinational corporations to adopt the "big brother-small brother" strategy, where they will buy rice for their employees and families directly from farmers groups and cooperatives.

The Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) will also implement a new inventory financing program for rice traders, farmers' cooperatives, local government units, and other stakeholders to enable them to buy palay directly from farmers.

The DA, in partnership with the LGUs, will be reviving and set up new Kadiwa stores to sell rice in metropolitan areas.

Meanwhile, Dar said he has formed a Crisis Management Task Force on Rice to facilitate implementation of identified measures in relation to the drop of palay prices, and other appropriate measures.

While farmers have blamed the rice tariffication law (RTL) for the drop of palay prices to as low as PHP6-PHP10 per kilo, he noted that hoarders have manipulated rice prices.

"When the RTL was being finalized, that season binagsak na nila ang presyo ng palay. Paano mo ma-a-attribute sa RTL yan? (they already dropped the price of palay. How can you attribute that to the implementation of RTL)," Dar said.

"May nagsasamantala (There are some taking advantage) and we will apply the full force of the law," he stressed.

"That's the major direction by which we are looking at. We are still looking at our data and information," he added.

Source: Philippines News Agency