DA’s P18-M support facility for rice farmers in NoCot a problem, not a solution

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MIDSAYAP, NORTH COTABATO —The P18-million  support which the Department of Agriculture provides to the rice farmers of North Cotabato has become a burden than a solution to their problem.

The government support facility has remained a structure of desperation rather than inspiration as farmers incur losses each harvest season due to the absence of government marketing support.

In 2014, the group of Dante Cudal, president of Midsayap-Pigcawayan-Libungan-Kabuntalan Federation of Irrigators Association or MPLK, which has 27 member-organization,   was provided the P16-million worth of Rice Processing Center (RPC)  as a support facility and P2-million fund to buy the palay of their members and generate income out of it,  through the DA’s program aimed at empowering the farmers.

The program was designed to empower the farmers to buy and sell its members palay at the storage facility in the hope of getting a better market price as they process the drying up to the milling, as the farmers felt shortchanged by the   National Food Authority (NHA), the government’s very own agency to handle the rice procurement program, who refused to buy their palay and instead prefer the rice from private traders.

But the purpose was not realized as the government’s very own NFA sets the limit in the procurement of palay from farmers, worse, they are not even receptive to the farmers’ predicament for a better price.

Farmers cannot compete in the market because most of the traders are selling imported rice at a very low cost while the NFA refuses to accommodate their produce.

The farmers are selling their rice at P1,300 per sack just to dispose of their stock but still, their effort has never been enough.

  It was learned that the NFA prefers to buy the trader’s rice and is making excuses not to buy their products using the farmers’ card.

Rice farmers still hope that the government and the NFA will intervene in the marketing component of the program.-Dante Cudal.

As it is now, the RPC has become a storage facility for the unsold rice because the palay which they bought from farmer-members remained stored in the warehouse because the NFA told them their inventory is full and prices in the market are pegged at P10 at most.

The National Food Authority has vested the functions of ensuring the food security of the country and the stability of supply and price of the staple grain-rice. It performs these functions through various activities and strategies, which include procurement of paddy from individual bonafide farmers and their organizations, buffer stocking, processing activities, dispersal of paddy and milled rice to strategic locations, and distribution of the staple grain to various marketing outlets at appropriate times of the year.

On the irony, the rice farmers and other farmers group never felt the intervention and support of said agency because the country for ages, have been very dependent on imported rice and the government is selling the same to the market at the expense of the farmers, whose products have become the second fiddle among traders and even at the NFA.

Instead of excitement because it is now harvest season, Cudal said, it is a burden because no one wants to buy their rice and they cannot sell it in the local market because the traders prefer imported rice which is cheaper.

“Naa lang ang among humay sa warehouse, mas daku ang pirdisyon unya mas malugi mi if among ibaligya sa mubo nga presyo (our rice are stored at the warehouse, it will be more damaging and economically disadvantageous for us to sell it to traders they will get it at a very low price).

The  Rice Tarrification Law (RTL), according to Cudal has weaponized the private traders at the expense of the Filipino farmers.

Not only that, the NFA has always the reason to decline their delivery citing high inventory and filled warehouse.

As of this writing, there are more than 2,000 cavans of rice at the RPC and in the storage of the farmer-members.

Cudal’s group has asked North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco to intervene and support the rice farmers by calling on government agencies to help the farmers facilitate the sale of their palay.

Catamco for her part vowed to intervene and support the farmers as she offered another P1-million capital for every RPC, provide RPC and solar driers to every organization.-Esther Roque/Newsline.ph

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