farmers in the Philippines

Zamboanga Sibugay farmers worry over drop in palay price

Antonio Manaytay
For this harvest season, prospects are bleak for farmers of Zamboanga Sibugay

Rice farmers in Zamboanga Sibugay were in low spirits as the farmgate price of palay plunged to P15 a kilogram ahead of the coming harvest season in October. 

Previously, the farmgate price was at P18 per kilo before the plunge, barely two months from the harvest season.

“Bad. Things are going bad,” rice farmer Renato Gaviola told Rappler.

The province is the second largest rice producer in Zamboanga Peninsula, next to Zamboanga del Sur.

The prevailing price of unhusked rice is P15 a kilo and it could even go as low as P10 when harvest time comes, the 46-year-old farmer said.

At P15 per kilo, the farmers could hardly make both ends meet, said Miladel Capitania, the municipal agriculturist of Kabasalan town in Zamboanga Sibugay.

The production cost per hectare of irrigated rice farm from land preparation to harvesting, according to Capitania, is P45,000. For hybrid rice, the cost is P55,000 to P60,000 due to the higher cost of farm inputs.

“The average yield for each hectare for inbred rice is 5 metric tons,” she said. With the present buying price at P15 per kilo, a farmer may have a net surplus of P30,000 after four months of waiting. That is, if nothing untoward event happens like a calamity, she added.

As the harvest season nears, the prospects are bleak for Zamboanga Sibugay’s rice farmers.

Arandy Silva, executive assistant to the mayor in Imelda town, said the farmgate price could plunge to P12 and P10 per kilo. “It is possible especially that harvesting usually happens during the rainy season,” Silva said.

The price drop could further diminish the surplus a rice farmer expects. And the picture is even bleaker for rainfed rice farms.

A non-irrigated rice farm would yield only 1.5 metric tons per hectare, leaving each farmer with almost nothing at the end of the cropping season, she lamented.

It could adversely affect thousands of families in the province who depend on rice farming, Capitania said.

Over 25,000 hectares of Zamboanga Sibugay’s land area of 360,775 hectares are planted to rice.

Data from the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG) show that some 9,613 hectares of rice farms are irrigated.

“There is nothing much to look forward to this harvest season,” said Gaviola, a father of four.

It is sheer luck if something will be left for his family after the harvest, he said. – Rappler.com

Antonio Manaytay is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship