GMA News Online : Outgoing DAR chief says P20/kilo rice possible with ‘mega farms’

By JON VIKTOR D. CABUENAS | GMA News Online

Outgoing Agrarian Reform Secretary Bernie Cruz has proposed the consolidation of rice production to bring down the price to as low as P20 per kilogram.

According to Cruz, it would be possible to achieve the P20 per kilogram price should the incoming administration look into the concept of mega farms through merging the production of small farms.

“Ang concept namin ng mega farms is without consolidating the land, ang iko-consolidate mo is the production so kung merong farmer ‘yan na tig-one hectare sila, iko-consolidate mo into 50 hectares para maging bulk ‘yung pag-purchase mo,” he said.

“Bababa talaga siya, ‘yung cost of production, tapos with technical support,” he continued.

(Our concept of mega farms is without consolidating the land, consolidate the production so if there are farmers with one hectare each, consolidate that into 50 hectares so purchases will be in bulk. The cost of production will really go down, and include technical support.)

Latest data available from the Department of Agriculture (DA) show that the average prices of rice from P38.00 to P50.00 per kilogram for local, and from P37.00 to P52.00 per kilogram for imports as of June 6, 2022.

During his presidential campaign, President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said he would recommend a price cap on rice to bring down prices to as low as P20 per kilogram.

He has yet to provide specific details on the plan, which he later noted was an aspiration, but said he has talked to traders and asked them to freeze prices.

Marcos has also yet to announce his choice for secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform under his term which starts at the end of the month.

Outgoing Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said the campaign promise would be possible, but this would need targeted and efficient support to rice farmers.

The Duterte administration liberalized the entry of rice imports through the Rice Tariffication Law, which allowed unimpeded importation with higher tariffs, in a bid to lower rice prices by increasing market supply.

To protect the local industry, the law provides a P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which shall be utilized for grants to provide farmers with equipment to improve farm mechanization.

“Under Rice Tariffication, the programs are expected to increase the yield per hectare from four metric tons to five or six metric tons, so that is possible actually,” Chua said last month.

The same sentiment was shared by Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo, who said that it would be possible but this would need careful study.

Farmers, however, have denounced the development citing that prices of unmilled rice or palay hover at P12, and bringing down the price of rice to P20 would cause the farmgate price of palay to fall to P6.

“Mahal pa po ‘yun sa sigarilyo kesa sa isang kilong bigas,” Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (Pakisama) Legal and Policy Advocacy Officer Rene Cerilla said in April.—AOL, GMA News