Ahead of the harvest season, Agriculture Secretary William Dar has urged local government units (LGUs) and the private sector to buy rice and corn requirements directly from farmers to help support prices.

“This should be part of the ‘new normal,’ where LGUs are taking a more pro-active stance by directly buying farmers’ produce — be these rice, corn, vegetables, chicken, eggs, fish and other farm and fishery products — at reasonable prices, and then including them in their food packs for their constituents,” Dar said in a statement.

Dar said Landbank was willing to disburse up to P2 billion worth of loans at two percent interest to buy palay, and even to purchase farm machineries and equipment.

The Department of Agriculture said it could also support farmers by rolling over twice its procurement fund, directly obtaining palay at the barangay level, opening up warehouses for use by farmers’ cooperatives and associations, and fast-tracking the modernization of farm drying and milling facilities.

Last year, the top 12 rice producing provinces — Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Iloilo, Camarines Sur, Tarlac, Negros Occidental, Maguindanao, Bukidnon, North Cotabato, and Leyte — provided 9.74 million metric tons (MMT) of palay, or roughly 52 percent of the country’s total harvest. Jojo Mangahis / PressOne.PH