By Vincent Mariel P. Galang, September 29 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Philippine Star

THE government has released P2.462 billion for the credit and seed distribution components of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

In a statement, the Agriculture department noted that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) allotted to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) P2.038 billion to fund promotion, acquiring, and distribution of certified seed to farmers listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA).

Distribution will start in October for dry-season planting, covering 57 provinces, and 747 cities and municipalities, with a total land area of more than one million hectares. Each farmer will receive a maximum of 80 kilograms of certified rice seed, which include RC 222, RC 160, RC 216, and 16 other location-specific varieties, for two consecutive seasons.

Through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), the DBM also gave P244 million to the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and P180 million to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) for lending to individual farmers and accredited cooperatives and associations.

The DBP has partnered with Nagkaisang Magsasaka ng Isabela Agricultural Cooperative and PayMaya, Inc. for financial services to farmers in the form of e-wallet cards. It is currently working with the local government of Isabela to collect data from farmers to aid in the opening of bank accounts.

LANDBANK has received 97 loan applications from individual farmers, and seven applications from cooperatives, with a total loan amount of P38.07 million.

The Rice Tariffication Law liveralized the importation of rice, with importers having to pay a 35% tariff on grain from Southeast Asia.

The tariffs will help fund RCEF, which is authorized to take in P10 billion annually until 2024 from import tariffs.

RCEF will support greater mechanization, distribution of high-yield inbred seed, credit, and extension support and education in the rice industry.

“Funds for the mechanization and extension services programs will be available soon following the DBM’s issuance of the Special Allotment Release Order to the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), and Technical Skills Development Authority (TESDA).”

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar also created the National Program Coordinating Team (NPCT) which will implement the programs.

The NPCT has finalized protocols regarding updating the RSBSA. It initial validation covers about 1.11 million unique farmers with 618,725 hectares in 48 of 57 target provinces. Updated data will be available shortly to help identify beneficiaries. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang