'Aanhin pa ang damo?': Rice farmers call for scrapping of Rice Tariffication Law

Bruce Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 13 2020 07:34 PM

Protesters picket in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform and Department of Agriculture in Quezon City on October 1, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Rice farmer groups on Monday said they are looking to gather 1 million signatures to support their call to scrap the Rice Tariffication Law which they said has caused hardships for local rice growers.

In an online press conference, Cathy Estavillo of local rice policy advocacy group "Bantay Bigas" said many rice farmers are now deep in debt because the law failed to protect farmgate prices of rice.

Estavillo said that based on their study, at P17 per kilo, rice farmers only earn P133 per day. This is why rice prices ranging between P10 to P14 per kilogram have caused them tremendous losses.

"Ayon sa ating magsasaka, maaaring aabutin na naman ng P7 (per kilo), na presyo noong nakaraan na taon, dahil palapit na 'yung peak season at ang ang tag-ulan. At tsaka ang kawalan ng post-harvest facilities ay dito nababarat ang presyo ng palay ng ating magsasaka," she explained.

(Our rice farmer say prices may again plunge to the P7 per kilo level that we saw last year because we are nearing the peak harvest season, and it's the rainy season as well. The lack of post-harvest facilities also forces rice farmers to sell their crops at a loss.)

She said the retail price of rice meanwhile remained high because of the absence of the P27 per kilo and P32 per kilo rice variants that used to be sold by the National Food Authority before the law was enacted.

Because of these reasons, Danilo Ramos, president of Kilusang Magbubikid ng Pilipinas said the Rice Tariffication Law should be scrapped.

"Yung binabanggit po ng NEDA, nila NEDA Director (General) Karl Chua, hintayin daw ang 2025 (to review the law)," Ramos said. 

(NEDA Director General Karl Chua said that we should wait for 2025 (to review the law.)

"Alam niyo po, may kasabihan ang mga magsasaka, 'aanhin pa ang damo, kung patay na ang kabayo?' Hihintayin pa po ba natin 'yung 2025 samantalang ngayon pa lang dumaranas ng matinding hirap ang magsasaka at mga consumer?"

(You know, farmers have a saying, 'What is grass good for if the horse is already dead?' Do we still have to wait for 2025 while as we speak, farmers and consumers are experiencing great hardships?)

The groups also proposed measures to address the plight of local farmers and consumers.

They said the NFA should buy rice crops from local producers at P20 per kilo or more. The NFA should also buy 20 percent of local production and sell these at affordable prices in public markets.