By Manny Piñol
Iloilo City – It is simply unbelievable that in a place considered as the rice granary of the Visayas and the well-spring of many known political leaders of the country, the Ilonggo rice farmers are still exploited and oppressed even up to this time.
In the series of Biyaheng Bukid farmers and fisher folks consultations I conducted in the island of Panay, I found out that rice farmers in the four provinces, including the island province of Guimaras, are getting almost half the price for their produce compared to other farmers in Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Davao Region and Central Mindanao.
While the buying price of freshly harvested paddy rice is between P18 to P20 per kilo in the three regions mentioned above, the Ilonggo farmers get as low as P8 to P12 per kilo for their produce.
“Maayo na gid kon mabakal P14. Buwenas na gid kami dira,” a farmer from Iloilo told me during the forum.
(It’s good if they could buy our produce at P14 per kilo. We would really be lucky with that price.)
The painful part of this story is that farmers get their financing from the same traders who buy their produce and they pay exorbitant interest rates.
In Antique, a farmer leader told me that for every P1,000 they borrow from the trader-financier, they pay an interest of five 50-kilo bags of paddy rice.
The cruel joke being played on the people of the province is the fact that when I visited the public market in La Paz, the price of rice is between P40 to P60 per kilo.
That means that a 50-kilo bag of rice is between P2,000 to P3,000 while the 50-kilo bag of freshly harvested paddy rice earns the farmer only P500 at P10 per kilo buying price.
Assuming that the milling recovery is only 50% since the paddy rice will have to.be dried, the trader will get a 25-kilo recovery from the 50 kilos.
At a price of P50 per kilo, that is equivalent to P1,250 earned from a P500 capital or a profit of P750.
Add to that the earnings from rice bran and tiki-tiki and you will realize how much these unscrupulous traders are earning from out of the sweat and labor of the farmer.
When I learned of this, I issued this statement:
“The oppression of Ilonggo farmers must end now. I will not allow it to continue anymore because it is an outright injustice and oppression.
“In other provinces, farmers sell their fresh palay for P18 every kilo.
“In this Region, palay is being bought by businessmen for as low as P8 to P12 per kilo. And farmers here borrow money from private lenders with almost 500 percent interest.
“I will come back again and again until the Ilonggo farmer gets what is fair and his rightful reward for his pain and hard work.”
As promised, I will come back time and again to Iloilo until I see the end of the exploitation and oppression.
(Photos of rice farmers in Guimaras harvesting and threshing palay taken by me with my Huawei P9 Plus while photo of a rice retail store in Lapaz District, Iloilo City taken by DA AFID.)