Rice farmers across the country gathered on February 14, 2012 at the University of Philippines in Quezon City in a summit dubbed as National Rice Farmers’ Conference organized by the peasant groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Amihan – National Federation of Peasant Women, and the party-list group Anakpawis to demand the increase in the prices of palay (unhusked rice) to P20.00 per kilo citing, among others, the increase in the costs of production brought by the unabated oil price hikes.
KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said that “while farmers shoulder the rising costs of production, palay prices remain very low. Farmgate prices of palay cannot even help us recover from the skyrocketing costs of production.”
In a one hectare rice land for instance, Ramos said, “a rotovator and hand tractor consumes an estimated 600 liters of gasoline for every cropping, while gasoline-operated irrigation pumps consumes at least 150 liters per cropping.”
“At P55 per liter, this means each rice farmers shoulder P41,250 for gasoline alone,” Ramos said. “And for every P1 increase in the price of gasoline means an added P750 production cost for the rotovator, hand tractor, and irrigation pump alone for a one-hectare rice land.”
Ramos said that “including land rent, fertilizers, pesticides, and machinery rentals, the costs of production would shoot up to a minimum of P75,000 production costs per hectare.”
“At an average harvest of 80 cavans or 40,000 kilos per hectare, each rice farmer spends P18.75 per kilo of palay while unscrupulous rice traders only buy palay at the average price of P12.00 per kilo nationwide. This explains why rice farmers are deep in debt and run to loan sharks,” Ramos said.
The National Food Authority (NFA) buying price of palay is pegged at P17.00 per kilo.
“Unfortunately, the NFA cannot influence prices at the farmgate because it only buys less than two percent of the country’s total rice production. What is more insulting is that the NFA budget is being used to the massive importation of rice that further pulls down local palay prices instead of buying our local produce,” says Ramos.
The KMP leader stressed that “in light of the worsening crisis and increasing costs of production, rice farmers’ demand to increase palay prices to P20 is just and reasonable.”
“What we’re asking for is only for survival, for every rice farmer to live and plant for next cropping season,” Ramos said.
The KMP said they will present their demand in a protest and dialogue with agriculture secretary Proceso Alcala on February 15, 2012. #