By Joseph B.A. Marzan
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution calling on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to halt the importation of rice, as well as the sale of imported rice, during harvest season.
The resolution filed by Board Member Matt Palabrica (3rd district) cited the recent importation of 38,400 metric tons (MT) of rice into the Port of Iloilo in August 2022.
The resolution averred that further rice importations into the city and province of Iloilo would be detrimental to the province’s rice farmers and their income.
“This volume [38,400 MT] when dumped into the markets of the Province and City [of Iloilo], would greatly affect the incomes of a large segment of the rice growing economy of [Iloilo province], whereby it would again bring down the price of newly harvested rice or palay to way below the production cost,” the resolution added.
“Iloilo Province is mainly a rice producing economy and this volume of imported rice will greatly affect the livelihood of the already suffering rice farmers, bringing further economic disaster already broken by the on-going COVID19 pandemic.”
The Department of Agriculture-Region 6 (DA-6) on its website indicated that in 2021, Iloilo province was the top producer of palay in Western Visayas, with 1.018 million MT harvested, accounting for 43 percent of the region’s total of 2.35 million.
Negros Occidental was a distant second after accounting for 20 percent of the regional yield at 483,534 MT.
Marcos Jr., who is concurrently the DA Secretary, promised in his 2022 presidential campaign to lower the cost of rice to P20.
Prior to the provincial board’s session, Palabrica, who is the chairperson of the board’s Committee on Agriculture, clarified to Aksyon Radyo Iloilo that the “harvest season” in his resolution refers to the “wet season” (September to November) and the “dry season” (March and April).
He cited that palay prices plunged from between P19 to P22 per kilogram in April and May 2022, to between P12 to P14 per kilo in August 2022.
Palabrica said the timing of the rice imports from Vietnam was questionable as it would be very unfavorable to the farmers.
The resolution was the “first step” in monitoring imported rice.
“We noted the reports of the imported rice. Our question is that, why was it in time for the harvest season? That would be unfavorable to our farmers. If we cannot stop the Rice Tariffication Law, what we can do is to ask the intervention of [Marcos Jr.], who is at the same time our DA Secretary, to regulate these months,” he said.
Palabrica further explained that prohibiting the importation of rice into the province in the meantime would keep palay prices below the P22 mark.
“If there were no imported rice around during this harvest season, prices would be maintained between the P19 to P22 mark. They say that traders couldn’t do anything but buy farmers’ palay at the lower price because of competition. We hope that the national government could help in regulating the traders,” he said.