Rice farmers seek higher gov’t subsidy

LINGAYEN–The Confederation of Irrigators Association of Pangasinan has asked the government to give farmers higher subsidy to be more competitive with Asian farmers whose cheaper rice are now flooding the Philippine markets due to open importation.

Ernesto Pamuceno of Sta. Barbara town, president of the confederation, said they asked the government, through the Department of Agriculture, in a resolution they passed last May 17 to increase its support to the farmers, which is currently pegged only at P10 billion per year.

In other countries, like Vietnam, which is one of Asia’s biggest rice-producing countries and which the Philippines sources some of is rice supplies, the government there is giving from 17 to 18 billion U.S. dollars as its support to agriculture.

Pamuceno revealed that Filipino farmers are spending P14 to produce one kilogram of palay, while Vietnam farmers only spend P6 to P7 in Vietnam. This is the reason, he added, why imported Vietnam rice are cheaper than the locally-produced rice.

“We must have to lower our cost of production for us farmers to be able to compete with the farmers of our Asian neighbors”, said Pamuceno, who was the provincial agrarian reform officer of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Pangasinan in late 1990s.

He said the imported rice flooding the market are cheaper because they were produced by countries that gave higher subsidy to their farmers.

Consequently, Pamuceno said local rice are sold at higher prices than the imported rice because of their higher production costs even as he cautioned fellow farmers not to sell their palay to traders who buy at lower prices.

In their resolution, the confederation also asked DA to give them free organic fertilizer as they cannot afford to buy chemical-based and synthetic fertilizers due to their astronomical prices nowadays.

To protect farmers, the confederation further asked DA to require dealers to put suggested retail price (SRP) tags to fertilizers and pesticides.

Pamuceno advised farmers to use hybrid rice seeds that enable farmers to harvest from nine to 10 tons per hectare.

He admitted that as one of the progressive farmers of Pangasinan, he is now harvesting nine tons per hectare using hybrid seeds in his farm in Sta. Barbara.

But he added that hybrid rice seeds require more inputs and consequently more expenses.

(Leonardo Micua)

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