Gov’t dangles profitable crops, yields for distressed palay farmers
Using excess tariffs from the rice imports that arrived in the country last year, the country’s agriculture chief said the government was ready to jump-start its crop diversification program to help rice farmers troubled by low palay prices.
In a press conference on Monday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that of the excess P2.3 billion in tariff receipts last year, the Department of Agriculture (DA) had already requested to use P1.3 billion for its crop diversification program while the remaining P1 billion would be used to provide additional insurance.
This has been the plan of the Duterte administration following the passage of the rice tariffication law, which has brought down palay prices, and consequently the financial capacity of local farmers. Those who would not be able to compete with the influx of more affordable imported rice may shift to planting remunerative crops with assistance from the government.
Dar said they were expecting to commence the program by next year. High-value crops that may be planted include abaca, cacao, cassava, coffee, oil palm and rubber, among others, although the agriculture chief noted that options would still depend on factors such as weather.A year since the implementation of the rice tariffication law, several palay farmers have either sold their lands or shifted to planting other crops like corn.The inevitable migration of these farmers to planting other crops or working in other sectors has been fueled by the consistent decline in the farm gate price of palay, which the government is trying to mitigate by pouring in billions of pesos in subsidies and loans.
To offset the expected decline in harvest areas for palay, the DA has also increased the bags of inbred seeds being distributed to individual farmers to six from four. It has also been strongly advocating the use of hybrid seeds to farmers who have the capacity to purchase them, since these seeds are pricier but have higher yields.
The agency is still banking to produce an abundant harvest for 2020 despite the ongoing rice crisis. Dar reiterated during the briefing that “the rice tariffication law is one of the game changers where the growth of the agriculture sector can come from.” INQ
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