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The newly signed Rice Tariffication Law seeks to lift import restrictions on rice, which the government hopes will lower the price of the staple food to a level more affordable for the Filipinos – a boon to consumers but a bane to rice farmers, farmworkers and the local rice sector as a whole. Rice procurement serves the dual purposes of building rice stocks for the public food grain distribution system and of providing income support to farmers. The law addresses the urgent need to improve the availability of rice in the country, to prevent artificial rice shortage, reduce the prices of rice in the market, and curtail the prevalence of corruption and cartel domination in the rice industry. The law essentially allows for the liberalization of rice imports. It will remove the previously placed quota on rice imports, permitting traders to import a near-unlimited quantity of rice.

Upon assumption to office of Governor Rodolfo T. Albano III in July 2019, his first marching order is to organize a super cooperative that will help the marginalized farmers in the province. A massive cooperative membership orientation was conducted in 32 municipalities and resulted in the birth of “Nagkaisang Magsasaka ng Isabela Agriculture Cooperative” (NMIAC) aka “super cooperative”.

 

To date, the NMIAC has about 8,500 small farmer-member. Who would have thought that these small farmers invested their hard-earned money to the super coop after they have realized the benefits of becoming a member? The NMIAC serves the dual purpose of building rice stocks for the public food grain distribution system and of providing income support to farmers. Its objectives: to be able to purchase the farmer produce at a reasonable price; to provide a value chain to small farmers; minimize the risk and effect of rice tariffication, and; to be able to establish a guaranteed market.

The super coop is the first of its kind in the history of cooperatives in the country and initiated by a Local Government Unit. The registration of NMIAC in August 28, 2019, with the Cooperative Development Authority, which is chaired by former Congresswoman Ana Cristina Siquian-Go, paved the way in providing additional support price of P 5.00 per kilogram to small farmers with .25 hectare to 2 hectares, access to market at a guaranteed sale of a maximum of 80 bags at 50 kilograms per bag, which is equivalent to P20,000 additional income per farmer-member. The members of the NMIAC were also given an individual identification card cum debit card. It is intended to fast track the process of payment transactions instead of a traditional farmer-trader of doing business.

 The NMIAC started palay procurement in September 2019 and a record-breaking 9,373,910 kilograms of wet and dry palay in just one month was purchased.

Through the help of the Department of Agriculture and the Development Bank of the Philippines, through representation of Governor Rodolfo T. Albano III and Vice Governor Faustino G. Dy III, a credit line of P 450 million was awarded to NMIAC under the DA’s Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCRF) Program and an additional farmers support fund of P40M from the Provincial Government of Isabela. A formal launch was conducted on October 12, 2019, held in Roxas Astrodome, Roxas Isabela.

The super coop, a brainchild of Governor Albano became known and gained admiration and curiosity across provinces, from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. And with this, the Province of Isabela was invited to present in the National Food Security Summit on October 29-30, 2019 at DM Hall, Land Bank of the Philippines, Malate, Manila… the LGU Model for Food Security was presented by Governor Albano.

The NMIAC is a resounding proof of the Albano-Dy Administration’s strong will to empower those who have less to have more of the support of the government.