P1.5-B loan fund for rice farmers set
The Department of Agriculture (DA) will extend P1.5 billion in loan assistance to rice farmers reeling from the initial effects of the rice import liberalization law—one of which is the continued decline in palay prices despite unchanging input costs.
In a statement on Friday, the agency said it would be expanding its Survival and Recovery (SURE) program for the “immediate relief to rice farmers affected by the reduction or loss of their farm income [and] to help rice farmers regain their capacity to continue their production.”
Since the passage of the new rice import law, the domestic market has been flooded with more affordable imported rice that led palay prices going down to levels that hurt producers of the staple.
As of the fourth week of July, the average buying price of palay was at P17.76 a kilo, down 18.6 percent from a year ago.
In the provinces of Cavite, Surigao del Sur and Davao, the average rates were P13.38, P14.35 and P14.99 a kilo, respectively.
The average production cost of palay in the country is still at P12 a kilo as farmers have yet to reap the benefits of the rice competitiveness enhancement program (RCEP).
Under the law, the RCEP will be annually funded with P10 billion to provide subsidies to farmers to make them competitive against other rice-producing countries in the long run.
This entails the provision of seeds, machinery, training and affordable credit.
As an immediate remedy, rice farmers owning one-hectare lot and below may avail themselves of a one-time, zero-interest loan from the DA amounting to P15,000 payable up to eight years.
The program will be under the expanded SURE aid, which will begin on Sept. 1.
In turn, the National Food Authority will also buy the produce of these rice farmers.
The DA’s credit arm, the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), approved a funding of P1.5 billion for the program, which is to be implemented by the state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines. The implementing guidelines will be jointly crafted by ACPC and Landbank.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he was positive that the assistance would improve and increase the income and profit of rice farmers as the government ironed out the implementation of the RCEP.
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