Rice farmers producing barely to sustain family
TABUK CITY, Kalinga — Rice is a labor-intensive family endeavor farmers here told Nordis, saying they are only farming to sustain themselves.
“Farming is a family enterprise. Everybody work the fields, including the teenagers and in some cases, children,” said Zenaida Gumayon, a woman farmer from Barangay Agbannawag.
The men and boys prepare the fields and the seedbeds, while women and girls help in transplanting seedlings and cleaning the fields. Harvesting, threshing and milling may be contracted to farm workers, who are also from a family, said Gumayon.
Gumayon, in her 40’s, has been working the rice fields with her husband in the last 20 years.
Francis Pennel, 49 said for a hectare of rice land, he usually pays two man-days to plow (arado) the fields another two to break the mounds (basag) of plowed soil and still another two to prepare it to receive the seedlings (disponte). Another man-day is required for the (linang), or the final cleaning of the paddies before transplanting.
A man-day usually costs P200 in Tabuk but for women farm workers, it is usually P150. If the farm worker does not bring his own lunch-pack, the labor is only P150 for males and P120 for females
Since farming is a family enterprise, our informants were silent on the wages children get from the exercise of their labor.
For the use of a tractor, the farmer pays P5000 per hectare of rice land.
Transplanting (raep) is usually contracted at P3,000 per hectare in Tinglayan town, where labor is slightly higher at P250 per day.
According to a study by Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera (Apit Tako), a regional peasant alliance of 98 member-organizations, A team of 10 to 12 harvesting (gapas) farm workers gets around 400 kilos or eight cavans of fresh palay per hectare.
“A harvesting team of 10 to 12 persons gets one-twelfth (inkadose) of the gross yield in some areas. The thresher-owner or a team of four which does the threshing, gets another one-twelfth,” said Lulu Gimenez, Apit Tako research coordinator.
High farming costs
Farmers find inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and certified HYV or hybrid seeds too high. A bag of urea costs P1940 in September. A 20-kilo bag of hybrid is P4,000 while the inbred is P1,200. Pesticide against the mollusk golden kuhol costs the farmer P1,200 per hectare while another brand of pesticide costs P700.
Pennel said he needs 10 sacks of fertilizers per hectare for his hybrid rice to yield the optimum expected harvest of 130 cavans of palay.
Irrigation fees come in terms of palay. During the wet season, a farmer pays the irrigators’ association 100 kilos of palay. In the dry season the fee is higher at 150 kilos.
Low palay price, high cost of rice
On the other hand, the palay price is inexplicably low. As of October 1, the prevailing price of palay in the province is P12 per kilo for fresh palay and P13.50 for the dry. At the peak of the harvest season, this could go as low as P10, according to Gerry Bulaat, secretary-general of the Timpuyog ti Mannalon ti Kalinga (farmer’s forum). TMK is a member-organization of the Apit Tako.
“We are only farming to feed our family,” said Agnes, a woman farmer, adding there is nothing left for education and health needs.
Other farmers have to buy rice halfway towards harvest because their produce is not enough to get their family through between the planting and harvesting seasons, she said.
“In that case, a farmer buys rice at P33 to P36 per kilo,” said TMK’s Bulaat.
At the losing end
“Kanayon kami a malugi no kastoy ti kasasaad,” (We are always at the losing end, if the situation is like this) said Josie, another woman farmer. She said, “Nangina ti epektos, nalaka ti irik, ken no masapol a gumatang ti bagas, nakanginngina daytoy,” (The inputs are high, the cost of palay too low and when we have to buy rice, its price is too prohibitive).
In many towns in Kalinga, rice fields are too small to support the year-round rice needs of farmers, Bulaat explained. “That is why most farmers could not harvest the rice their family needed, thus, they also buy rice,” he added.
Gimenez collaborated Bulaat’s statement saying, more than 50% of Kalinga’s owner-tillers have only less than one hectare to two hectares on the average. “Manmano ti dumanon iti tallo ektarya ti talon na,” (Only a few have more than three hectares to till) she told Nordis in a separate interview.
Around 90% of the province’s 174,000 population are into rice farming. Some 78,000 are in Tabuk City. # Lyn V. Ramo