All rice farmers should get₧5K aid amid crisis–FFF

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THE Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) has called for the distribution of P5,000 cash aid to all rice farmers in the country, regardless of landholding, to help the industry cope with persisting production challenges.

FFF Chairman Leonardo Q. Montemayor said the Department of Agriculture (DA) should apply its rice financial assistance to all rice farmers regardless of their landholdings.

Montemayor argued that all rice farmers were affected by the drop in prices and spike in the costs of production inputs.

“Everyone was hurt with the entry of imported rice—not only those tilling 2 hectares or less. For the sake of equity, all those affected by the importation should benefit from the P5,000 income transfer,” Montemayor said in a virtual briefing organized by food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan recently.

“If your farm size is more than 2 hectares, then you will be affected more by the drop in prices and expensive inputs because you have a larger harvest,” he added.

Under Republic Act 11589 or  the Cash Assistance for Filipino Farmers Act, rice farmers tilling 2 hectares and below shall receive P5,000, to be sourced from the annual rice tariff collections in excess of P10 billion.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) earlier revealed that the total rice tariff collections last year reached P22 billion, with P12 billion to be given to rice farmers as cash assistance.

In the same briefing, Tugon Kabuhayan said it will support the government in its efforts to curb agricultural smuggling in the country.

For one, the group called for the institutionalization of the inspectorate and enforcement group in the DA.

“The problem now is that the group that goes after smuggling is ad hoc, without personnel. We support the institutionalization of Assistant Secretary James Layug’s inspectorate and enforcement group in the DA,” the group said.

Montemayor, a former agriculture chief, emphasized that agricultural smuggling threatens Filipino consumers since they can cause the incursion of animal and plant diseases in the country.

“Aside from the impact on the revenue and production of local farmers and fisherfolk, human health and plant and animal safety are also affected by illegal imports. Ano ang dala nilang sakit? The [African swine fever] and cocolisap are most likely from smuggled goods,” Montemayor said.