LETTERS FROM DAVAO

By Jun Ledesma

LAST week, the buying price of palay in Midsayap, Cotabato increased to ₱18/kilo. This looks like finally traders had their Damascus and bothered by their conscience raised the buying price of paddy rice from a low range of ₱12.50 to ₱13.50/kilogram and offered to buy the farmers’ produce at ₱18/klg.

Elsewhere in Bukidnon, traders also increased the buying price of corn at ₱25/kilo.

The sudden surge of buying prices of palay and corn is an all-time high. This never happened before so we can call this phenomenal and a glorious mystery that happened in a poor farmer’s life.

Is this a knee-jerk reaction to Pres. Bongbong Marcos' veiled threat to come to the rescue of the beleaguered farmers who had been exploited for decades by unscrupulous traders? PBBM holding the Department of Agriculture signals, among others, the revival of NFA which, in the era of his father, resorted to buying the farmers' produce because of cruel and exploitative practices of traders then.

Farmers in Midsayap and in Bukidnon are not about to celebrate. The incredible buying price increases happened post harvest season when farmers have nothing else left from the past harvest but seeds for the coming planting season. In short, traders simply added salt to a gaping wound. The buying price may hit the rafters but with nothing more to sell the much-ballyhooed increase is nothing but a sick joke.

The last and only hope for farmers now to be rescued from the shackles of the traders is for PBBM to fast-track his rescue plans, which includes the resuscitation of NFA facilities, e.g. rice mills and silos, which are important components in the NFA operations. He must woo Congress to provide substantial funds to NFA to enable the agency to buy fresh palay harvests. Either buy or rent trucks so it can buy palay from the farmers’ gate. If NFA could guarantee to purchase palay at ₱18/kilo, there will be bonanza of rice starting second planting season which will likely be in the first quarter of 2023.

There are other problems that must be addressed. Among them the prices of fertilizers and certified seeds. Maybe tariffs on fertilizers and other agricultural inputs should be lifted.

The time to act is NOW. Vietnam for one had served notice that it will stop exporting rice to provide adequate supply for its own people. Our farmers have the capacity to produce our needs and PBBM himself has demonstrated his confidence that this can be achieved. He is not amused with the sick joke on farmers.

About the Columnist

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Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.