Farmers in 4 Agusan del Sur towns to stop selling palay to traders, middlemen

TRENTO, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 12 March) – Several farmers in four towns of this province will no longer settle for low prices of their palay offered by traders and middlemen, but will instead process it into high-grade commercial rice and sell it directly in markets.

The farmers, all agrarian reform beneficiaries in Trento, Bunawan, Veruela and Sta. Josefa, said they expect to realize this plan with the inauguration Tuesday of the P21-million rice processing plant in this town.

Rice farmers. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

Leomides R. Villareal, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) – Caraga regional director, said the plant will liberate the farmers from middlemen and unscrupulous traders and make them productive rice entrepreneurs.

The plant is equipped with facilities like a multi-pass rice mill, warehouse power supply, recirculating mechanical batch dryer, five solar dryers and mist polisher.

It is a DAR project under the Convergence of Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment (Project ConVERGE).

The large-scale dryer and rice milling plant were funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Philippine government as part of Project ConVERGE’s P110-million allocation for the agrarian reform farmers in the four municipalities.

The local government units of the four towns shouldered 20 percent of the project cost.

DAR Secretary John Castriciones, who attended the inauguration, distributed P16 million worth of farm machines and equipment to the different farmers organizations of the province.

“We have the President who loves the farmers, the agrarian reform beneficiaries, and he has mandated me to distribute the agricultural lands to the farmers as soon as possible. And I, being one of the Secretary of our President believes that the farmers are considered as one of the true heroes of our country,” Castriciones said.

The official said President Duterte gave DAR a clear mandate to deliver all the necessary assistance for the farmers as a legacy of his administration.

The plant will be operated by the Southern Agusan Seed Producers Cooperative (SASEPCO), which will serve as consolidator of the rice produce from three other agrarian reform beneficiaries’ organizations: Kahugpungan sa Malahutayong Mag-uuma Para sa Ekonomikanhong Kalambuan, La Fortuna Multi-Purpose Cooperative, and Baug CARP Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

Already, the cooperatives have cornered a P16-million rice supply deal with the Department of Social Welfare and Development after winning a competitive government bidding.

They were able to secure a certification from the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System with the technical assistance and capability building training from the DAR Provincial Office.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the D.O. Plaza Memorial Hospital will follow suit in ordering thousands of bags of rice from them.

Jamil P. Amatonding Jr., Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer II, said the farmers under Project ConVERGE will somehow address the negative impact of the Rice Tariffication Law, which also affected farmers in the four towns.

He said the farmers are expected to increase their yield by 30 percent due to the cost-effective mechanized farming system.

He said the modern farm inputs would boost production while significantly reducing the expenses incurred, especially during the planting season.

He said that based on the results of their strategic plan with the farmers their expense of P37,000 will be significantly reduced.

He explained that if a farmer yields P74,000 per hectare, with the mechanized inputs that would lessen their expenses, his net income will go as high as P45,000 to P50,000 per hectare.

Maximo Gegato, SASEPCO manager, said 20 of their 200 members stopped planting rice and instead grew bananas because of heavy losses in their harvest last year as a result of declining prices of palay.

He said traders pegged the palay prices at P700 to 800 per 50-kilo bag from what used to be P1,000 to P1,400 before the implementation of the tariffication law. (Chris V. Panganiban/MindaNews)