By: Enrique Canizares III
Last September 20,2019 a Farmer’s Dialogue among the 3 National Agencies was organized by the Zarraga Multi-Purpose Cooperative and ESSA was invited as an observer for the event. The Department of Agriculture (DA), the National Food Authority (NFA) and the National Irrigation Agency (NIA) has to send their representatives as the coop facilitated a dialogue between the agencies and the farmers to formulate solutions to the on-going crisis in rice prices. Sadly, the Department of Agriculture has no representative and it somehow set a precedence to what will day might look like.
Jocelyn Pere-ira the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the cooperatives and Kim M. Gallego gave the the opening remarks and rationale for whole program respectively. Both BOD gave passionate remarks on what Agriculture means as a foundation and driving force of our modern human civilization.
Engr. Randy C. Alipis from NIA discussed the current programs of the agency and how the farmers can avail of their free services. The agency only deals with organizations so if small scale farmers would like to avail of irrigation services they have to be affiliated with organizations. Many areas in Zarraga are still struggling with their current supply as their current supply of water is not enough especially for rice farmers. The continued challenges on water supply from storage to distribution are continuously adding up to the burden the farmers are carrying now. Equipment have not been maintained, canals are clogged and some farmers block the irrigation systems to store water for themselves. These problems are but symptoms of a deeper societal problem when looking at real sustainability.
Merlyn Chua the representative from NFA gave a background of the agencies establishment and what programs they were focused on. Many of the programs have been change since the advent of the rice tarification. To help out small-scale rice farmers, NFA is currently establishing scheduled “Buying Stations” all throughout the province to buy rice from local farmers, the purchasing price from NFA is at 19 Php per kilo compare to the 17Php in the market. The Agency requires for rice to be with 14% moisture, clean and dry requirement to ensure the best state for storage. The prices go down when moisture content is higher, and currently, there is insufficient dryers that are able to meet the demand for drying rice harvest since the number of the equipment NFA owns is limited and the both dryers that Zarraga owns are not operational. Drying rice also take time. For rice to reach 14% moisture content take an average time of 36hours per 50 sacks or depends on the capacity of the dryer.
The Zarraga Multi-Purpose Cooperative is also ensuring the produce of the members who are rice producers. The coop will buy all the rice produce of their members because the harvest is due in the coming weeks. The coop though will not be able to buy-out rice from non-members because of the limited funds and at the same time the long turn-over of rice because of the huge supply right now.
The Zarraga Multi-Purpose Cooperative deserve commendation because of their intentions to create real dialogue between the government agencies and the stake-holders in agriculture. Though there were solutions to pacify the urgent concerns of the farmers, there was no real view or picture of what real sustainability might look like. Also, there little dialogue between the farmers and the agencies concerned. The framework was compartmentalized when the problems where systemic. So the solutions offered where but short term solutions.