Action for Economic Reforms (AER), a research and policy advocacy think tank, called for ramped up but targeted palay procurement by the National Food Authority (NFA) and quick disposition of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) based on the actual needs of rice producing areas.

The call was made amidst conflicting claims between the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) with regard to palay prices at the farmgate.

AER further called for the posting on DA and Philrice’s websites the details of the Department of Agriculture’s Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) and the Rice Fund Impact Monitoring System.

“The data, complemented by statistics from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) can further guide the DA’s Rice Program implementers as well as rice farmers’ organizations in targeting where, say post- harvest facilities like solar dryers, should be poured in and where palay procurement by the National Food Authority and local governments can be focused. Different areas have different conditions and interventions definitely have to be area specific. The information will also be most useful in guiding DA’s ‘integrity circles.’ These are community-based organizations partnering with DA regional officials to monitor fund utilization and the impact of different productivity and competitiveness enhancement programs. Over the long term, we should be able to see a lowering of costs and risks of rice production utilizing a combination of various approaches rolled out by DA – climate change adaptation, clustering production, value and supply chain development, farm modernization, organizing farmers into production clusters supported by professional farm and cooperative managers, among others,” Jessica Reyes-Cantos, President of AER said.

She added, “(I)t will be great if we can have a discussion of the actual components of PRISM. While information on palay prices at the farmgate is important and is actually being monitored as well by the PSA, it is crucial to juxtapose that data with our rice farmers’ cost of production. That way, we are able to gauge where programs are working and where they need reinforcement. Bottomline, farmers need to earn a living from rice farming as we support DA’s program target of at least a 94% rice self sufficiency for our country.”