To further strengthen the competitiveness of the Philippine rice industry, its key players convened on February 7, 2018 at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) Convention Hall to improve the draft Philippine Rice Industry Roadmap for Development (PRIRD) 2017-2022 that will be used by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and its attached agencies and bureaus as basis in crafting their plans, projects, and programs.

Organized by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF), the National Consultation on the PRIRD 2017-2022 served as a forum for the presentation of the roadmap to gather additional inputs and recommendations from the concerned government agencies and private sector stakeholders.

Executive Director Sarah Gutierrez-Cayona, in her welcome remarks, emphasized that the activity will have a great contribution in achieving food security in the country.

“I am confident that with your experience, skills, and expertise, we will be able to reach the best results from our deliberations so we can develop guiding principle that in the long run will make a difference in the sector,” Exe. Dir. Cayona said.

Engr. Christopher Morales presenting the Philippine Rice Industry Roadmap for Development 2017-2022 to the representatives from concerned agencies and private sector

Field Operations Service – Field Programs Operational Planning Division (FOS-FPOPD) Chief and Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) Officer-in-Charge Director Engr. Christopher Morales presented the draft PRIRD 2017-2022 which envisions for a competitive, profitable, resilient, and responsive rice industry for a rice-secure Philippines.

He discussed the interventions to be implemented to achieve improved competitiveness; increased farm income; ensured access to safe and nutritious rice; enhanced resiliency to disasters; and ensured smooth transition of displaced rice farmers and farm workers.

During the open forum, the participants raised their issues and recommendations which will be incorporated in the roadmap in order to enhance it for its effective implementation.

Regional Agricultural and Fishery Council (RAFC) VI Chairperson Ricardo Provido, Jr. suggested that issuance of import and export license/permits should be considered in the roadmap.

To achieve inclusive growth, Provido recommended that the profitability of small farmers should be well considered. Therefore, there is a need to identify the factors that affect farmgate prices as these usually determines farmers’ profit.

Provido noticed that there seems to be no strategy on how to manage the injection of supply in the market. He further proposed to restructure the marketing system so that it will also benefit the producers as the current system is biased towards consumers.

Moreover, RAFC X Chaiperson Edgardo Layug emphasized that insurance coverage is very critical to protect the livelihood of small farmers.

Layug recommended that there should be a larger budget allocation for insurance at Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) (at least Php10-B) as it implements the insurance programs of the department.

Despite the good intentions of the roadmap, Jesus Las Marias of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) Pilipinas believed that it will not result in achieving self-sufficiency since it specifies that only hybrid rice will be used.

According to Las Marias, through SRI, organic rice production is the answer to reach the targets in the roadmap. He assured that the rice produced through organic production is safe, healthy, and nutritious.

Furthermore, RAFC CARAGA Chairperson Pedro Lim stressed that farmers still struggle to repay their loans even at six percent annum. He then proposed to establish a Farmer’s Bank to address this concern.

Lim also emphasized that the implementation of Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law caused price increases in several commodities.

He recommended to consider the possible effects of the increase in petroleum price in rice farmers because the agriculture sector is very much affected with the increase since it is a production input.

Likewise, Atty. Elias Jose Inciong of United Broilers Raisers Association and Alyansa Agrikultura proposed to prioritize the enforcement of trade policies to ensure fair trade and survival of the sector.

He said that various trade remedies such as safeguards and additional duties should be considered. As such, there is a need to ensure proper consolidation of trade data.

To protect irrigated land, Jaime Tadeo of Rice Farmers Council suggested to issue a Moratorium on Land Use Conversion to address rampant land conversion.

Tadeo also proposed to promote organic agriculture to address issues on soil malnutrition/multiple nutrient deficiency; and to provide a particular credit scheme for small farmers that will give them much needed capital for rice production.

Preparations to address the possible surge of smuggled rice into the country due to the lifting of the quantitative restriction (QR) for rice was also recommended by Jesus Jimenez, Sectoral Chairperson, Committee on Food Staples (CFS), AFC Negros Occidental.

Assistant Secretary for Agribusiness, Andrew Villacorta, answers issues raised by one of the participants during the open forum.

Jayson Cainglet of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) stressed that the protection of the famers should be prioritized before activities relative to the smooth transition of displaced rice farmers and farm workers will be pursued.

Moreover, RAFC I Chairperson Vincent Adorna emphasized that an association should have at least rice lands to qualify as a beneficiary of a combined harvester.

He recommended to DA to change the policy to a minimum of 150-200 ha for the farmers to avail the said machinery.

To increase the income of farmers, Adorna also proposed that the fund for National Food Authority’s (NFA) palay procurement should be increased because this would allow the farmers to buy palay at a higher price, from Php17 to Php22 per kilo. This will then compel the traders to buy rice at a higher price (e.g. Php24/kl).

On the other hand, Hazel Tanchuling of Rice Watch Action Network raised that in the roadmap, it does not mention any effort to address or circumvent the issues on the devolution of the local government units; strategies to enhance the capacity of the DA’s implementing partners; and strengthening institutional development, particularly aiding the unorganized farmers.

All of the possible contributions from the participants were noted by the Secretariat to achieve the targets identified in the roadmap.

After the open forum, the panelists responded on the issues, concerns, and recommendations raised by the participants.

DA Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, Research and Development, and Regulations Segfredo Serrano emphasized that the NFA should retain its mandate to stabilize supply and price of rice despite the lifting of the QR on rice.

Serrano added that the farmers, particularly the beneficiaries of agrarian reform programs, should have easier access to credit through farmer banks that are mandated to give financial assistance for small farmers.

Lenard Guevarra of National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) suggested to identify the activities in the roadmap which can be funded using the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) representative Pablo De Castro asked to invite representatives from the local government units (LGUs) in forums/consultations to update and inform them of the policy development initiatives to be properly addressed by concerned LGU offices.

Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) Policy, Planning, Program Development and Advocacy Staff Director Magdalena Casuga assured that the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) program is available for rice farmers and producers who are affiliated with cooperatives, organizations, and associations.

PCAF-CFS Chairperson Raul Montemayor recommended that there should be more investments for livestock, fisheries, vegetable farming using an integrated approach as additional source of revenue of the rice farmers.

Montemayor added that there is a need to educate the farmers on technological advancement tools and skills and let them choose which interventions to adopt for their development.

The roadmap will be disseminated to the Provincial AFCs and Municipal AFCs for their comments, which will be forwarded to the writing team to incorporate in the roadmap. – LC