One-time cash subsidy to farmers readied
The government has decided to implement a one-off cash transfer to rice farmers affected by the continuous drop in the buying price of palay following the passage of the rice import liberalization law.
In a statement, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said it had obtained the approval of the Department of Finance (DOF) to give additional assistance to rice farmers by expanding the scope of the DA’s Survival and Recovery (SURE) credit program.
The SURE program provides credit to farmers and fisherfolk affected by calamities, both natural and man-made. It offers zero interest and a maximum loanable amount of P25,000.
Under the DA’s proposal, its coverage will be expanded to cover rice farmers suffering from the continuing drop in palay prices. According to the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, current rates are barely enough to cover production cost of P12 a kilo.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in an interview on Tuesday that the agencies were set to meet on Thursday to craft the implementing guidelines for the proposed cash subsidy.
“We don’t have any range yet (for the cash assistance)… We’re still planning and discussing it, but this has already been approved,” Dar said.
The agency added that the expansion of SURE would be built “on the good experience” under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Dar also noted that the subsidy would only be temporary and might be given out only once in lieu of the dropping prices of palay.
As of the fourth week of July, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the average farm-gate price of palay inched up by 2 centavos from a week ago to P17.76 from P17.74 a kilo.
From year-ago rates, however, this was lower by 18.6 percent.
The provinces of Cavite, Surigao del Sur and Davao recorded the lowest average rates at P13.38, P14.35 and P14.99 a kilo, respectively, while the highest rates were reported from the provinces of Bulacan and Guimaras at P22 and P21 a kilo, respectively.
“I will not call it a band-aid solution. This is temporary just to alleviate (the plight of the) affected farmers. We’ll be going for a long-term solution. RCEF (rice competitiveness enhancement fund) is a long-term solution,” Dar said.
Funding for the cash subsidy will come from the Bureau of Customs’s rice tariff collections. The DA said in a statement that Finance Secretary Carlos Domingez III expected the agency’s collections from rice imports to exceed P10 billion, which would assure full funding of the RCEF.
Tariff revenues in excess would be funneled to give further assistance to farmers for the remainder of the Duterte administration, Dominguez added.
Under the rice import liberalization law, a P10-billion annual subsidy would be directed to rice farmers to ensure their competitiveness against the influx of imported rice through the provision of equipment, seeds, credit and training.
However, due to budget delays, rice farmers are expected to benefit from it early next year at the earliest.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.