VICE President Jejomar C. Binay yesterday vowed government support for rice farmers who receive very little assistance from the present administration.
“Rice is our staple food, yet our government has extended very little support to our rice farmers,” Binay said.
The Vice President issued the statement as he visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos, Laguna.
“It is crucial that we give our farmers the assistance they need to improve their harvest and make farming profitable,” he added.
Binay cited a PhilRice study that said Filipino rice farmers are getting relatively low government support compared to their peers in Asia.
“While China offers free inbred seeds to farmers and free hybrid seeds to cooperative members, our government gives zero subsidies for seeds or fertilizers,” he said.
He said fertilizer costs around P1,188 per 50kg-bag and rice farmers use around four bags per hectare so they have to spend almost P5,000 for fertilizer alone.
“Because of such steep price, our farmers are forced to scrimp on fertilizers and this, in turn, affects their yield,” he further said.
Binay pledged that under his leadership, his administration will push for community seed banking, seed buffer stocking, and linking of seed producers with credit conduits — all of which could lessen the cost of seeds.
The Vice President also said he will ensure subsidies for fertilizers and encourage local government units (LGUs) to teach their farmers how to produce their own fertilizers.
“I have learned that in Bayawan, Negros Oriental, the city government gives four bags of fertilizers for every 70 bags of organic fertilizer a farmer produced. This initiative helps our farmers save around P5,000 and should be replicated by other LGUs,” he said.
Binay lamented the fact that farmers had to pay an irrigation fee of P2,000 per hectare during the wet season and around P3,000 during the dry season.
“Irrigation is free in China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Filipino farmers, on the other hand, may waive payment for irrigation only if their crops have been damaged due to calamities,” he said.
“To help our farmers save up on this, our administration will intensify irrigation schemes initiated by the National Irrigation Authority through infrastructure and technology,” he added.
“We will also improve water resource management and planning through research, and train local farmers as an operational intervention to increase manpower and double the area of irrigated lands,” he further said.
Binay said under his administration, government will strive to help farmers get connected to markets such as restaurant chains, supermarkets and food processing companies, and enable them to access credit.
“We will strengthen crop insurance services and credit guarantee to minimize farm-related credit risk. We will also seek to lower transaction cost to reduce lending rates,” he said.
The Vice President noted that the Credit Information Corp.’s credit data system is intended to become fully operational in December 2015. He said this will make credit background investigations easier and reduce the lending costs passed-on to borrowers.
“Considering that almost 12 million or 31 percent of our working population is in the agriculture sector, our government should give our farmers and farm workers all the assistance they need,” Binay said.