By Rose de la Cruz
Advising Filipino consumers to buy rice directly from farmers is a logistics nightmare. It is easier said than done.
This, as the Philippine Rice Research Institute, urged the consumers to buy milled rice stratight from the farmers to encoruage them to sell directly and make more money.
The objective is noble and would transform farmers to become entrepreneurs themselves overnight. But then again, how and where would consumers go to– say coming from Manila– and which farmers from which province would offer them the better prices, comparing their cost of transportation going straight to the farms as against their expected savings from such a direct transaction.
At the Palace briefing on Wednesday, PhilRice Development Communications head, Dr. Hazel Antonio broached this idea as part of the annual National Rice Awareness Month celebration every November.
“This time, we’re encouraging every consumer to buy their products kasi isa din sa mga goals ng DA (Department of Agriculture) specifically ng PhilRice under the rice program ay tulungan iyong ating mga farmers to market their products as milled rice na instead na ibenta nila as fresh palay sa farmgate, she told reporters.
Antonio said farmers get a very small profit when they sell their rice products at farmgate price.
“Kasi iyon ‘yung isa sa mga reasons kung bakit mababa iyong income nila. So, 49 percent lang noong consumer prices iyong nakukuha nila and mababa iyong income dahil doon. So kung binibili natin iyong bigas ng P50, nakukuha nila less than P25 and babawasan pa iyan ng inputs nila so halos wala nang natitira. So, kaya ini-encourage namin sila to sell milled rice, she explained.
Fresh or dry palay is normally bought from farmers at very low prices by traders, merchants and millers, most of whom provide production loans to farmers at usurious rates (in palay equivalent). Whenever government production inputs supplies are delayed in coming, farmers borrow money from these sources so they would not disrupt their planting and harvesting schedules.
Through the PhilRice RiceBis (rice business entrepreneurship) program, the agency links up the produce of farmers with institutional buyers like local governments, civil groups and businessmen, who mostly supply these stocks to their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and feeding programs. These buyers normally offer premiums for the rice of farmers provided they comply faithfully with the volume requirements always.
For example, the one in Pangasinan—the product is being supported by the mayor so it is being sold at the mall at no cost to the farmer,” she added.
Antonio noted that they recently received an order from the Philippine Disaster Rice Reduction Network for P7 million worth of rice from farmers for relief distribution..