“We are left with no better choice. We directly sell to traders our fresh palay right after harvest and content ourselves with the prevailing price they impose on us.”
Edwin De Guzman, a farmer in Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija, expresses this sentiment that many others share.
According to Alice Mataia, a senior researcher of PhilRice, the rice farmers’ role in the current rice value chain starts and ends with the production of palay. This means they only benefit from the value of their palay.
Mataia explained that rice value chain is the full range of activities from input provision to production, aggregation, milling or processing, and distribution – converting palay into ready-to-cook rice sold to consumers. “If organized rice farmers capture all the value-adding activities in the whole value chain, and if gaps in the chain are addressed, they will earn more,” Mataia elaborated.
Closing the gaps in the chain
“It would be a big help if the government would provide us mechanical dryers so we can more easily dry palay during the wet season and sell our produce at a higher price,” De Guzman wished.
Mataia said that the insufficiency of modern mechanical drying, milling, and storage facilities is one of the constraints identified in the existing rice value chain. DA’s Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) helps address this constraint by providing postharvest facilities such as rice processing centers and mechanical dryers to farmer associations across the country. With this, farmers could dry and process palay into milled rice that they sell to pocket a fatter income.
Mataia and her team also diagnosed as another constraint the limited entrepreneurial skills of farmer organizations and cooperatives engaged in rice milling and marketing.
Currently, PhilRice is pursuing the development initiative called Rice Business Innovations System Program (RiceBIS) that employs strategies to transform a community of farmers from being merely rice producers to agripreneurs. This is done by training farmers to engage in various farm enterprises with rice as the resource base, and linking them to the appropriate market. RiceBIS works to establish rice hubs to serve as the community of farmers’ support system in carrying out their rice-based enterprises. With this, farmers are led into engaging in other rice value-adding activities to gain stouter earnings.
So, could organized farmers also operate as agri-input suppliers, seed growers, traders, millers, wholesalers, and retailers? Yes they surely could, as long as the government and other sectors walk with them.
Given a conducive playing field founded on a sound and humane policy environment, our farmers’ role in the rice value chain need not prematurely end with the production of high-moisture-content palay bought by traders at a take-it-or leave-it price.