TRADERS EXPLOIT POOR FARMERS – DA chief: P8-P12 palay buying rate in Panay heartless, oppressive

MEALS are incomplete without rice. But do we actually value the backbreaking work suffered by farmers in tilling our staple grain? Some rice traders don’t as they buy palay from farmers at cheap rates aside from locking them in debt forever. (Ricky Alejo)

AGRICULTURE Secretary Manny Piñol hit businessmen and rice traders in Panay and Guimaras islands for the “heartless and oppressive” buying price of palay or un-husked rice.

Piñol stressed that farmers in Panay deserve better, including fair and just buying price for their palay produce.

“The oppression of Ilonggo farmers must end now. I will not allow it to continue anymore because it is an outright injustice and oppression. In other provinces, farmers sell their fresh palay for P18 every kilo. In this Region, palay is being bought by businessmen for as low as P8 to P12 per kilo. And farmers here borrow money from private lenders with almost 500 percent interest,” said Piñol, who recently visited several towns and provinces in Western Visayas, the rice granary of the Visayas.

In his dialogue with farmers in Guimaras, Iloilo and Antique, Piñol repeatedly stressed the big difference between the buying price of fresh palay in WV and rice producing regions such as Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Davao Region and Central Mindanao.

He said that while the buying price of freshly-harvested paddy rice is between P18 to P20 per kilo in Luzon and Mindanao, “the Ilonggo farmers get as low as P8 to P12 per kilo for their produce.”

Piñol also condemned how trader-financiers exploit the farmers who borrow money from them to fund their production.

“In Antique, a farmer leader told me that for every P1,000 they borrow from the trader-financier, they pay an interest of five 50-kilo bags of paddy rice. The cruel joke being played on the people of the province is the fact that when I visited the public market in La Paz, the price of rice is between P40 to P60 per kilo,” he said.

“That means that a 50-kilo bag of rice is between P2,000 to P3,000 while the 50-kilo bag of freshly harvested paddy rice earns the farmer only P500 at P10 per kilo buying price. Assuming that the milling recovery is only 50% since the paddy rice will have to be dried, the trader will get a 25-kilo recovery from the 50 kilos. At a price of P50 per kilo, that is equivalent to P1,250 earned from a P500 capital or a profit of P750.”

“Add to that earnings from rice bran and tiki-tiki and you will realize how much these unscrupulous traders are earning from out of the sweat and labor of the farmer,” he added.

The Department of Agriculture under Piñol is pushing for massive mechanization and use of hybrid rice to shoot up palay and rice production in Western Visayas.

Aside from distributing free farm machineries and equipment to farmers’ associations in the region, the DA is also set to provide financing support to farmers in the region.

Piñol is also pushing Region 6 to produce at least 10 metric tons of rice per hectare to maximize production capacity.

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