San Fernando City, La Union – To help the Ilocos farmers on transporting their palay harvest amid COVID19 pandemic to the warehouses of the National Food Authority (NFA), the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office 1 (DA RFO1) will launch on Tuesday a free rice hauling service project dubbed as “Palay Sakay.”

DA RFO 1 OIC – Regional Executive Director Nestor Domenden said  the “Palay Sakay: Libreng sakay ng palay, mataas na kita’y tagumpay” is an initiative of the DA-RFO1 in partnership with the NFA Region 1 to provide free hauling of farmers’ rice harvest from a pick-up point to NFA’s warehouses for higher market price. The project intended for small cooperatives and individual rice farmers in the region.

The program will start by the hauling of rice harvest of  the farmers in Barangay Duplas, San Juan, La Union to the NFA Region 1 warehouse also in San Juan town.

“If one of the difficulties of our farmers in order to sell their palay to NFA to get a better price is the unavailability of vehicle especially during this pandemic, then we will lend our available mobile resources to them through NFA,” said Domenden.

Recognizing this predicament of rice farmers in the region, he said that the DA must step in and assist farmers in what they need most at the moment.

DA RFO 1 is set to make available eight hauling trucks to NFA for the free hauling of palay harvest to NFA designated warehouses in the provinces.

“We really need these trucks to haul the farmers’ palay produce kasi iyan ang mga hinaing especially ng ating maliliit na mga magsasaka. ‘Yung transportation po talaga ang problema nila especially sa mga farm locations na may mga feeder roads lang,” shared NFA Region 1 Director Yolanda Navarro.

(“We really need trucks to haul the farmers’ play produce since that was what was requested, especially by the smaller farmers. Transportation is a problem, especially in farm locations that only have access to feeder roads.”)

Through the ‘Palay Sakay’, in coordination with the local government units and farmer leaders, a schedule  will set for the hauling of palay at designated ‘pick-up points’ in the identified municipalities.

“We have to schedule kung saan pipick-upin kasi ‘di naman po pwedeng tatakbo ang ating truck na wala namang nakaready for pick up, “ Navarro added.

(“We have to schedule where [the palay] will be picked up because we can’t have the trucks move without products.”)

NFA will buy per kilo of palay based on certain categories. Under category A, palay is priced at Php 19.00 provided that it is clean and dry with 14% moisture content (MC) and with 95-100% purity.

Under category B, palay is priced at Php18.012 if it has 90-94% purity, clean and dry, with 14% MC.

NFA Region 1 palay-buying prices are higher than the palay buying prices of local traders in La Union with prices ranging from P12.00 to 15.50 per kilo.

The collaborative effort of DA and NFA is truly remarkable especially for in the barangay level in which the farmers will deliver their  palay harvest to NFA without spending on additional hauling costs and have a higher price.

Meanwhile, the Provincial Farmers Action Council of La Union Chairperson Lydia Navalta, 60, encouraged her fellow farmers to sell their produce to NFA.

“I just hope that my fellow farmers would be able to see and hear about this so they too can sell their harvest to NFA and have higher income,” she said.

Small farmer cooperatives and individual farmers enrolled in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) and included in the master list of their local government unit thru the Municipal Agriculture Office are qualified beneficiaries for this DA-NFA initiative.

Qualified farmer-beneficiaries are encouraged to coordinate with NFA and their respective local government units for the scheduling of free hauling of their palay on designated pick up points.