Sen. Cynthia Villar expressed confidence that government institutions will effectively implement the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or RICE fund once the tariffication bill is passed into law.
“Kailangang magtiwala sa kanila dahil kung hindi, walang mangyayari (We need to trust them for the programs to work),” Villar told media in a graduation ceremony of the trainees on quality inbred rice seeds production and farm mechanization late last year.
A government’s response to the June 2017 expiration of the quantitative restriction on rice importation, RICE Fund (Senate Bill 1998) replaces the quantitative import restrictions on rice with tariffs and provides support mechanisms to farmers.
Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, said the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) will be in-charged of inbred rice seed production while the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Modernization (PhilMech) will ensure provision of rice farm machines.
Under the 10-Billion RICE Fund, PhilRice will receive 30% for “developing, propagating, and promoting inbred rice seeds to rice farmers, and in organizing rice farmers into seed growers associations to be engaged in seed production and trade.”
On the other hand, PhilMech will be given 50% to provide farmers with rice farm machineries and equipment.
“PhilRice and PhilMech will take good care of the farmers. They will help farmers earn more profit and survive trade liberalization. Note that good seeds are important to increase harvest and to fill in the 7% deficit on rice. Our farmers must also be competitive so they can reduce their production cost currently at around P13. Vietnamese produce rice at around P7 because their farming is mechanized,” the senator said in Filipino.
Ten percent was also allocated for loans with minimal interest rates and with minimum collateral requirements to rice farmers and cooperatives to be managed by the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines.
“[This is an important provision] so that farmers do not have to borrow from traders,” she said.
PhilMech, Agricultural Training Institute, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority will also have 10% allocation for extension services.
“In France, I’m amazed that a farmer can manage and maintain a 100ha by himself. The farm school concept also came from this country. Under the RICE Fund, there will be rice schools in every town and training of trainers will be conducted every quarter,” she said.
Joysen A. Bumanglag, a 31-year-old farmer in Nueva Ecija, said training is helpful for farmers like him as he is informed on how to purify seeds, do recommended farm practices, store seeds, and operate farm machines.
“I’m earning P80,000 from my 2ha integrated farm. I think I can increase this further through more training,” he hoped.