Rain after a long drought
August 13, 2019 - Tuesday 4:08 AM by Jimmy Laking
“With things in motion in so far as rice growers are concerned, perhaps it also high time for Secretary Dar to work out a similar if not a more inclusive and sustainable way out to alleviate the plight of coconut growers nationwide.”
When it rains, it pours. Or at least that is how things are going with the combined directive of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Agriculture Secretary William Dar over the weekend to provide assistance to rice farmers to enable them to adjust to lower paddy prices following the passage of Republic Act No. 11203 or the rice tariffication law.
The law signed by President Duterte on February 14, 2019 lifted import restrictions on rice in a bid to ensure sustained rice supply for consumers.
The drawback is that farmers are not at all elated because there is tendency for importers to flood the market with cheap rice.
With the DA-DOF directive, the assistance comes in the form of unconditional cash assistance for farmers, to be allocated and distributed by expanding the ongoing Survival and Recovery (SURE) program of the Agricultural Credit Policy Council, an agency attached to the Department of Agriculture. This is like rain after a long drought.
As both department heads see it, the expansion of SURE to assist the rice farmers will also build on the good experience under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development .
This adjustment assistance will be in addition to the programs and projects mandated under the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF), the annual P10-billion fund established under RA 11203 to be sourced from the Bureau of Customs collection of tariffs on rice imports by private traders following the enactment of this law.
"This unconditional cash assistance program is meant to help cushion the initial impact of lower palay prices on our farmers as they transition to the new rice tariffication regime," Dominguez said. "For the long haul, the RCEF facility under RA 11203 will help sharpen the global competitiveness of our farmers by way of an array of programs providing them with access to farm machinery and equipment, high-yield seeds, cheap credit and skills training programs on farm mechanization and modern farming techniques.”
The annual tariff revenues in excess of P10 billion will enable further adjustment assistance for rice farmers for the remainder of the Duterte administration, he said.
Dar, who chairs the ACPC Council, will convene the Council soonest to get the SURE assistance started right away. Dominguez is a member of the ACPC Council.
From all indications, Dar appeared to have hit it right off with his colleagues in the Cabinet. This seemed also the first time that the DA and the DOF arrived at an understanding to address the plight of rice growers.
Which was not surprising because to his credit, Dominguez once held the agriculture portfolio himself and needed no prodding to act when necessary.
With things in motion in so far as rice growers are concerned, perhaps it also high time for Secretary Dar to work out a similar if not a more inclusive and sustainable way out to alleviate the plight of coconut growers nationwide.
In fact, it is a problem of long standing. And as an industry road map revealed, poverty incidence is highest in 12 coconut-producing provinces with a total of 315,425 farmers. This included the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Camarines Sur, Davao Oriental, North Cotabato, Northern Samar, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Sarangani, Samar, Surigao del Norte, Eastern Samar and Masbate.
Better late than never.
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