Mindanao farmers suffer big losses due to Rice Tariffication Law

Oct. 22, 2020

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Tenant farmers in Mindanao who practice conventional farming have been suffering the “worst effects” of the Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), according to a research of farmers-scientists network, Masipag Mindanao.

Speaking at the “Rice Talks” webinar on Monday, Oct. 19, Leo XL Fuentes, regional coordinator of Masipag Mindanao, explained that the RTL “resulted in a substantial income loss among conventional rice farmers compared to organic farmers.”

Citing their cases presented by farmers and NGOs during the Mindanao Rice Consultation last February, Fuentes bared that some organic farmers such as those from Wanga, Davao City and Sto. Nino, South Cotabato province have been hardpressed to maintain their net income a year after the RTL was implemented.

Conventional farmers in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato who previously earn an average net income of P12,000.50 before the RTL was passed, now earn P2,000.50 only.

John Madero of Maculan Farmers Association in Lake Sebu noted that he barely made profit as his harvested palay was only sold at around P11-P12/kg.

“Before the RTL came, somehow, we would still have profit in farming with the palay price still at P13-P16,” Madero said.

It is much worse for tenant farmers in communities in Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur provinces who practice conventional farming.

They reportedly incurred an average net income loss of -P13,892 when the palay price was at P16/kg. However, a year after the law’s enactment, palay price dipped to P14/kg, only resulting in an increased deficit of -P20,192.

While farmers are encouraged to shift from conventional into organic farming; however, Fuentes maintained that this is only a stop gap solution to the farmers’ plight. He echoed the appeal of many farmers to repeal the RA 11203 and implement a genuine agrarian reform in the country.

As early as 2018 amidst the reported rice shortage, Fuentes said that farmers already warned that the government’s proposal to allow the influx of imported rice will only kill food security in the Philippines.

Despite their warnings, the RA 11203 was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in February 2019, removing qualitative restrictions on rice importation.

The law has been blamed for the drop in the prices of locally grown rice, affecting an estimated 2.7 million Filipino farmers.

Bantay Bigas national spokesperson Cathy Estavillo likewise said during the webinar that after one-year implementation of the RTL, local farmers already recorded an average loss of P70-80 billion.

Estavillo slammed the weak government assistance to affected farmers through financial loans under the SURE Aid program. “Our farmers are already drowning in debts, and now [the government] still want to extend loans to them. Also, only few farmers will be listed in the program,” she said.

Last year, Bantay Bigas and other farmers organizations had earlier filed in Congress a petition to repeal RTL and stop the liberalization of rice industry in the country. It had 50,000 signatures across the country.
In place of RTL, they support the passage of House Bill No. 477 or the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA), filed by lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc.

The said bill which primarily aims to strengthen the national rice industry and address the recurring food crisis in the country. (davaotoday.com)

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