IN CAMARINES SUR: Low Palay Price

Cresenciano Luzon of Calapan City is a happy rice farmer because he can sell his palay at a profitable price.
Cresenciano Luzon of Calapan City is a happy rice farmer because he can sell his palay at a profitable price.
Just as we were starting to write this piece, we received a text from Ronald Lilles, a rice farmer from Lagonoy, Camarines Sur. He feels very frustrated because traders from his place are paying only P12 per kilo of his palay.
That’s very low if you ask us. It could be a losing proposition or just a break-even situation for him. A couple of weeks earlier, we found that in Isabela, our friend Baby Spowart was selling her palay at P20 to P21 per kilo. Of course, she was very happy.
Field tour in Long An, Vietnam where the Bayer products are used on rice.
Field tour in Long An, Vietnam where the Bayer products are used on rice.

The low price prevailing in Camarines Sur has a lot of negative implications. We will never achieve rice sufficiency if farmers like Ronald cannot sell their harvest at a profit. The government, particularly the National Food Authority, must be more active in ensuring that prices of palay are maintained at a level that is reasonable for farmers. NFA can do that through its program of buying farmers’ palay.

What happens when rice farmers don’t get a profitable price for their harvest? They could stop planting rice altogether and shift to other crops that are more profitable. Or if they continue planting rice, they will not be able to buy the necessary inputs like registered seeds, fertilizers and crop protection products. Without the inputs, expect a poor harvest. If they don’t make money from farming, they will not be able to send their children to school.

There are actually a lot of challenges in the rice industry not only in the Philippines but every place else where rice is grown. Even the rice exporting countries like Thailand and Vietnam are confronted with various challenges, including reasonable pricing.

Four delegates to the Rice Future Forum in Vietnam, from left: Edward Limon and Recher Ondap of Bayer CropScience, Dr. Santiago Obien and Kenn Magdangal of Tila Seeds.
Four delegates to the Rice Future Forum in Vietnam, from left: Edward Limon and Recher Ondap of Bayer CropScience, Dr. Santiago Obien and Kenn Magdangal of Tilah Seeds.

We attended a rice forum in Vietnam earlier and we learned interesting strategies how rice farmers with small farms can achieve better income. In Vietnam, they have what they call “rice commercialization project.” In this particular scheme, the smallholder farmers agreed to form a group that was able to strike a deal with the association of Vietnam rice exporters. The exporters will buy all their production that will meet their standards.
The scheme works like this. The farmers till their own little farms. But as a group, they agree to plant the same variety and they synchronize their planting schedule so that they can produce enough volume that will meet the requirements of the exporters. The farmers are taught the latest techniques of production so that they can maximize their yields.

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EDWARD LIMON of Bayer Academy.

Private companies like Bayer CropScience are helping the farmers to enhance their yields. One technique that the company is introducing to the farmers is coating the seeds with their two products that stimulate root growth as well as provide protection to the plants from pests and diseases for several weeks. Therefore, the farmer does not have to spray his plants with pesticides in the early growth stage. Thus he saves on money and labor. The treatment also ensures high yield.

By the way, the Bayer Academy has been put up by Bayer CropScience in the Philippines where farmers can learn about the latest techniques in rice production. The training is for free. The Academy is a mobile one. It brings the experts to different localities to do what may be called teach-ins in rice farming as well as farm entrepreneurship. The idea is to make farming profitable so that the farmers will continue planting rice, able to lead a comfortable life.

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