PH will take 'couple years or so' to lower rice prices: ex-agri chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 21 2022 11:25 AM

Farmers start to plant rice at a field in Barangay Simamla, Virac Catanduanes on Nov. 7, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File
Farmers start to plant rice at a field in Barangay Simamla, Virac Catanduanes on Nov. 7, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Philippines cannot lower the price of rice to P20 per kilo immediately, a former agriculture secretary said Tuesday.

This will take a "couple years or so," according to former agriculture secretary Leonardo Montemayor.

"Within 6 years, at least, we will have laid the foundation," he told ANC's Headstart.

The current soaring prices of fuel and fertilizer could prevent the incoming administration of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from bringing down rice prices, said Rosendo So, president of farmers group SINAG (Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura).

"Di talaga kaya sa ngayon. In the future kung ang seed production natin umabot 8 tons or 7 tons average baka pwedeng mangyari yun pero sa ngayon ang target pa natin 6 tons for the next 3 years dahil yun lang ang kaya na napo-produce ng field rice," he said.

"If you are producing more, you need more inputs na (of) fertilizer and irrigation."

(It's not doable for now. In the future, if our seed production reaches an average of 8 tons or 7 tons average, it might happen. But we are currently targeting 6 tons for the next 3 years because that is all that our rice fields can produce.) 

Montemayor also cited climate change as one of the challenges that the agriculture sector was facing.

"Maybe revise the way we position our agriculture production areas. Pagka halimbawa masyadong prone to typhoons, maybe less on coconut tree replanting... more push on bamboo production," he said.

(For example, if an area is too prone to typhoons, maybe replant coconut trees less and exert more push on bamboo production) 

Government must begin at the ground level and then help farmers sell their surplus, Montemayor said.

"We have to make our rural households self-sufficient in food as much as possible. Let's help them bring their surplus products, start with the barangay," he said.

"Let’s think globally but act local. Think in broad terms [such as ] value chain but act local."

So added that the agriculture department should work with interior and agrarian reform agencies. 

"Ang luwang ng ating bansa na pwedeng tamnan compared to other countries. We think na ang solusyon pa rin is our lcoal farms. Hindi yung importation," he said.

(Our country has vast lands we can till compared to other countries. We think the solution is still our local farms, not importation.)

"Other countries nagre-restrict sa export nila dahil (restrict their importantion because) they want to protect their own food security. Dapat tayo ganun din ang direksyon (our direction should also be like that)."

MARCOS AS AGRI CHIEF 

Montemayor and So welcomed Marcos Jr.'s decision to temporarily head the Department of Agriculture.

The agency's budget and subsidies could be prioritized and its concerns immediately relayed to the Cabinet, the pair said. 

The entire agency, however, has to be reviewed over time, Montemayor said.

The former agriculture chief also urged the Department of Trade and Industry and the Philippine Competition Commission to look into alleged cartels, Montemayor added.

"The review should not be on DA, include the DTI and also PCC to investigate, are there really cartels, unnecessary middle layers so much so that the effect is to have market failures when it comes to to the selling of farm and fishery products," he said.

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