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Dar bares measures to address palay prices

MANILA, Philippines — The agriculture department has already been taking steps to address palay prices which have dramatically declined after the liberalization of rice importation.

At a meeting on Friday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar reported to the Cabinet the measures that have been undertaken regarding the rice problem, said presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

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Rice cartels probed

Dar said the National Food Authority (NFA) had increased its palay-buying stations to service more farmers and also issued them rice coupons.

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He has also started an investigation into rice cartels and into rice hoarding and price manipulation activities.

Financial assistance was also made available to farmers through the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the Land Bank of the Philippines, he added.

Plant other crops

Earlier, Dar said 25 provincial governments had committed to buy palay from farmers.

President  Duterte also directed the NFA to buy up all the rice farmers’ produce in order to help farmers who have been suffering after palay prices dropped after the passage of the rice tariffication law.

Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Pangilinan sought a careful study of a proposal to make rice farmers in 23 provinces shift to planting other crops and said the influx of imported rice should actually prompt the government to help them boost their rice production.

Road map

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According to the proposed Philippine Rice Industry Roadmap, the 23 provinces are more competitive when it comes to other agricultural products, and would thus be transitioned to various commodities and industries, such as abaca, banana, cassava, cattle, coconut, high-value vegetables, livestock, poultry and rubber.

The road map also proposes the rollout of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund in 57 out of 80 rice-producing provinces.

But Pangilinan, a former presidential adviser on food security, said the proposal should be studied carefully if they want to boost local production for food security and self-sufficiency.

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