IGUIG, Cagayan: Agriculture Secretary William Dar encouraged Cagayan’s farmers to be more aggressive in farming as the Department of Agriculture (DA) launched the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund-Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RCEF-RFFA) 2022, awarded farming machinery and fuel discount vouchers at the Southern Cagayan Research Center (SCRC), in Barangay Minanga on May 20.

We have started improving techniques in farming. With Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund from the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), we have the PhilMech machinery and we have this RCEF-RFFA, the second round, to help you out. Aside from that, when the 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.

DA Secretary William Dar inspects the quality of rice sold in a public market in Cagayan province on May 18, 2022. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Under the RCEF-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.

Gains from the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL)

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 amounting to a combined P7.6 billion.

His visit on May 20 has 158,284 farmer-recipients from RCEF-RFFA amounting to P791.4 million with about P292.7 million as Cagayan’s share.

For the Fuel Discount Voucher Program, Cagayan has 6,274 farmer-beneficiaries with a P19.7-million budget.

The farming mechanization component under PhilMech has P69.2 million budget. There were six farmer-cooperatives in the province that received P12.5-million worth of farming equipment.

While the initial implementation of the RTL proved to be challenging due to startup 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 leaped 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 proceeded to Isabela province for another round of RCEF-RFFA 2022 and fuel discount voucher distribution. (Vince Jacob Visaya, The Manila Times)