Imee: Extend aid to rice farmers

PHILIPPINE STAR/ANDY ZAPATA JR.

SENATOR Maria Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos on Wednesday pushed for the extension of the P10-billion aid for farmers under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) up to 2031 to equip them with state-of-the-art farming technology and to modernize the rice industry.

“After six years, the tax did not go to the farmers,” she said in a statement in Filipino. “What we want is to extend this (RCEF) until 2031 not 2025, so that they can benefit from this, give it to the Philippine Rice Research Institute, to local government units and coops.”

The House Committee on Agriculture and Food and Ways and Means on Tuesday approved proposals to allow the National Food Authority (NFA) to sell rice to retailers and to increase the funding of RCEF to P15 billion from P10 billion annually. 

The law, which took effect in 2019, allowed private traders to bring in rice shipments without restriction. At the time, they had to pay a 35% tariff on Southeast Asian grain.

The fund supports supplying farmers with farming equipment, seed and fertilizer, among others.

Ms. Marcos reiterated the need to address the disparity between farmgate and retail prices of rice, and proposed bringing back the Food Terminal Incorporated (FTI) and Kadiwa system.

She said the centralized collection and distribution of FTI-Kadiwa system allowed the discounted sale of agricultural produce at Kadiwa retail stores.

“What we need (to solve the rice price issue) is to have all hands on deck and help in any way,” said Ms. Marcos. “We don’t want the NFA since it always falls to corruption and other scams. Let’s not allow this.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez