Palay prices fall to P14/kg, but farmers given hope

Security officials warn vs BOL poll saboteurs

Bandera (Visayas) - - News -

KORONADAL CITY — Farmers in South Cotabato were bracing for losses as prices of palay plunged to P14 per kilogram just as the National Food Authority (NFA) dangled a SECURITY is tightening in autonomous areas of Mindanao in the days leading up to the Jan. 21 plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), with police and military officials warning against saboteurs who would disrupt or prevent the voting.

President Duterte earlier ordered security officials to ensure free, orderly and credible voting for the BOL.

Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, head of the Western Mindanao Command, said all units and systems had been put in place to protect at least 2.1 million registered new program, which promised to make farmers earn more for their harvests.

Dianne Silva, NFA regional director, said on Sunday that farmers could voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during their exercise of their right to vote.

400 policemen

Dela Vega said the military had tapped the help of all sectors, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to secure the plebiscite.

In General Santos City, at least 400 policemen were deployed on Thursday to boost security in Cotabato City ahead of the plebiscite for the BOL, according to a top police official.

Chief Supt. Eliseo Rasco, regional police director, said the policemen were earn P20.40 per kg if they sold their harvest to the government.

The NFA currently buys palay for P17 per kg plus what the agency called incentives of up to trained to respond to “whatever scenario.”

“The challenges we are facing appears greater than us,” Rasco said.

“Yet, on hindsight, it is one of those life-changing events for us and an event that we can be proud of,” he said in a statement.

Rasco backed the ratification of the BOL, which he said could “put an end to the conflicts that have long been tormenting people in the region.”

Once the BOL is ratified, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will replace the 28-year-old ARMM.

Cops’ role

P3.40 per kg for individual farmers, according to Silva.

“This new program of the NFA seeks to gain additional income for farmers and help the agency in securing available and enough food during calamities through buffer stocking,” Silva said in a statement.

The program offers farmers storage, transport and drying facilities.

Rasco said policemen had been trained to perform as board of election inspectors to replace teachers who might be unable to render service because of security issues.

Cooperatives

Cooperatives or farmers’ groups could get up to P20.70 per kg, including incentives, if they sold to the NFA, Silva said.

Private traders buy palay for P23 per kg as of July last year. The price went down to P17.50 per kg in December, according to results of monitoring by the Inquirer.

Provincial Board Member Romulo Solivio, chair of the board’s committee on agriculture, expressed alarm over falling farm-gate prices of palay.

Solivio said farmers were groaning under the weight of losses expected from the price decline.

He said the current situation did not warrant a decline in farm-gate palay prices in South Cotabato.

Prices of commercial rice at markets in the province now hover at P40 per kg or above, depending on the grade, according to Solivio.

Policy effect

In July last year, prices of premium commercial rice breached P50 per kg and stayed there for seveMayor ral months.

Solivio said the decrease in palay buying price by private traders could have been the effect of the government’s policy allowing private traders to import rice.

President Duterte was expected to sign the rice tariffication bill into law, which the administration certified as an urgent legislative measure in October.

The rice tariffication bill sought to streamline rice importation and allow private traders to import the staple from countries of their choice.

Solivio said the board’s agriculture committee would conduct an inquiry.

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