Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar of Department of Agriculture encouraged Cagayan’s farmers to be more aggressive in farming and to concentrate more on ways in improving production as he launched Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund – Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RCEF-RFFA) 2022 and awarded machinery from Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) as well as Fuel Discount Voucher today May 20, 2022, at Southern Cagayan Research Center (SCRC), Minanga, Iguig, Cagayan.

We have started improving techniques in farming. With Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF) from Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), we have the PhilMech machinery and we have this RFFA, the second round, to help you out.  Aside from that, when Ukraine -Russia conflict erupted, we have this fertilizer subsidy voucher. Let us adopt the framework drawn to lead us in great strides towards a clearer agricultural tapestry,” Dar said.

Under the RFFA, rice farmers tilling two hectares or less will receive P5,000 in unconditional cash assistance.

The program sources its fund from the rice tariffs collected annually over the P10 billion allocated for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Dar earlier said more rice farmers would receive cash assistance this year as the country collected over P8 billion in excess tariffs from rice imports last year.

Last year, the collection reached P8.8 billion, which means that we will reach out and help more farmers,” he said.

In November, the DA began distributing cash assistance from excess tariffs collected from 2019 and 2020, the first two years of the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) amounting to a combined P7.6 billion.

His visit today has brought 158, 284 farmers to be benefited from RFFA for a sum of 791.4 million pesos of which 292.7 million pesos is Cagayan’s share.

For the Fuel Discount Voucher Program, Cagayan has 6, 274 farmer beneficiaries, a total amount of which is 19.7 million pesos.

Ceremonial Project Awarding of RCEF beneficiaries (mechanization component under PhilMech) has an amount of 69.2 million pesos, or which 12. 5 million pesos worth of machinery awarded to 6 Farmer Cooperatives and Associations.

While the initial implementation of the RTL proved to be challenging due to start-up glitches, coupled with a protracted pandemic, the law served as the major gamechanger that spearheaded the structural transformation of the country’s agriculture sector,” he said, as he outlined the strides agriculture has leapt since 2019.

The record palay harvests for two consecutive years is proof of the success of the programs and initiatives under the RTL,” he added.

Our mid-term review showed that the RTL provides for the appropriate policy framework and productivity – enhancing provisions to catalyze the transformation of the rice industry – from one that is focused on self-sufficiency to one that is less reliant on rice imports,” the agri chief said.

After Cagayan, he will proceed to Isabela province for another round of RCEF-RFFA 2022 and Fuel Discount Voucher distribution.

Dar has become Cagayan Valley’s favorite for having reprised his role as Agriculture Secretary in 2019 under the Duterte Administration.

He has restrained the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF), the birth pains from the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), and the falling palay prices. He has conceptualized oneDA reform agenda which is considered a sure path for uplifting rural agriculture.

With Secretary Dar were Asec Noel Ocampo Reyes of Strategic Communications and Asec Virgilio Lazaga, Board Member, Head of Agri Cluster and CDA. (DA, Cagayan Valley, FB)