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Farmers’ group warns of falling incomes

Rice glut seen with harvest season imports

05:22 AM February 11, 2022

With the influx of rice imports in recent months, the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) warned of a potential decline in prices of palay or unmilled rice during the coming dry season.

“We will have a supply glut when the farmers start harvesting their dry season crop starting March 2021. Farmers will again suffer from low prices even as the costs of fertilizer, fuel and other farm inputs remain high,” FFF national manager Raul Montemayor said in a statement on Thursday.

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Data provided by the FFF showed rice imports in 2021 totaled 2.98 million tons. Of the total, 40 percent or 1.22 million tons arrived during the main harvest season between September and December last year.

Then in January, another 262,000 tons of imports entered the country despite “huge carryover stocks from the previous year.”

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“Having a large harvest is meaningless to farmers if it results in low prices for their produce,” he added.

The country’s unmilled rice production reached 19.96 million metric tons, higher than 19.2 million MT a year ago.

Farmers not benefiting

Even though the Department of Agriculture (DA) said the Philippines posted “record harvests” over the last two years, the FFF maintained farmers did not significantly benefit from higher output.

The group attributed half of the incremental harvest to the expansion in harvested area and only half was due to an improvement in yields.

“Overall, output per hectare improved by only 1.6 percent in 2021, equivalent to an additional income of only P1,095 per hectare. This is far off the DA’s unsubstantiated claim that farmers earned P10,000 more per hectare in 2021 despite the increase in fertilizer costs,” it added.

The FFF questioned the effectiveness of the agency’s interventions for the sector, saying the additional palay output of about 665,000 tons recorded in 2021 had a market value of only P11 billion.

It also downplayed the impact of the increase in tariff collections on rice imports to P19 billion in 2021, saying this resulted in low palay prices.

—Jordeene B. Lagare
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