A report from the United States Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Services (USDA-FAS) shows that the Philippines is likely to increase its rice imports to three million metric tons (MT) from 2019’s 2.9 million MT despite last month’s projection that the country’s imports will decline by 2.2 million MT amid improving local production. 

Milled rice production is expected to decrease from last year’s 11.9 million MT to 11 million MT. Agriculture Secretary William Dar says that they are aiming for a record high 2.12 million MT palay production. But aside from the issue of rice production and importation, low farm gate prices of palay are also a cause for concern to some industry groups.

Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura notes that the current farm gate price of palay is at P14 per kilo on average, not P18 per kilo as stated by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). The group claims that PSA’s data is inaccurate as there were no surveys conducted in rice-producing areas. With harvest season still a month away, low palay prices cause major disadvantages for farmers.

The Federation of Free Farmers also points out that lawmakers failed to resolve the continued delay in the release of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (Acef), which is intended to be used for farmers’ credit (80 percent) and scholarship (20 percent). 

According to the Bureau of Customs, the Acef special fund still has a balance of three billion pesos that can be disbursed immediately. More than 2,000 applications worth P3.5 billion are still pending for this year. The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food will schedule a hearing to discuss the Acef.

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