By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter
THE NATIONAL Food Authority (NFA) Council on Monday approved a new procurement price range for palay (unmilled rice) in order to improve the income of farmers, the Presidential Communications Office said in a statement.
President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. was quoted as saying the NFA Council set the purchasing price for dry palay to P23 per kilogram from the current P19, and for wet palay to P19 per kilogram from the current P16.
The NFA Council is chaired by Mr. Marcos, who is also the Agriculture secretary.
Mr. Marcos said the new palay buying price range was meant to give famers a “better income.”
“So (the farmers) can earn some money. Aside from this, there is the price cap for rice so we can calm rice prices,” he said, referring to the recent rice price ceilings of P41 per kilo for regular milled rice and P45 per kilo for well-milled rice.
However, the NFA Council’s approved procurement prices are lower than initial proposals which sought to raise the buying price of dry palay to P25 and wet palay to P20. The NFA said these original proposals are “too high and will spike retail prices.”
With the new buying price of dry palay set at P23, the NFA said it would need a maximum of P15 billion for the procurement fund.
“If (the buying price) is pegged at P25, P16 billion will be needed for palay procurement,” the agency said.
The NFA is mandated to purchase domestically harvested rice as buffer stock for local shortages and calamities.
The agency said it is also looking into providing physical rice stock to poor households, instead of cash assistance.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) said it would support the NFA buying price at P23 a kilo. It noted that farmers would be happy with the new buying price, since they are now only being paid P16-P19.
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said that NFA procurement will be focused in areas where there is excess supply. “In that case, it can help elevate farmgate price,” he said.
Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura Executive Director Jayson H. Cainglet urged the NFA to “intervene now in areas where prevailing farmgate prices fall below P20.”
“We reiterate that there is no rice shortage, the problem is that the NFA has no buffer stock… which caused traders to increase prices,” he said in a Viber chat.
Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy L. Estavillo said the new buying price will make up for farmers’ production costs, which have increased with the recent spike in fuel prices.
Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said the government should augment the buying funds of the NFA if needed. The NFA should also set up post-harvest facilities so that it can absorb even freshly harvested palay from farmers, he added.