In Kidapawan, residents can buy rice at P20 a kilo from gov’t outlet
KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato, Philippines — In this capital of Cotabato province, residents have a chance to buy rice at P20 per kilogram every Saturday, in a scheme adopted by the local government to assist the farmers and the local populace.
The city government led by Mayor Jose Paolo Evangelista provided P11 million this year as assistance to accredited farmers, which allowed the city to buy palay at prevailing National Food Authority (NFA) prices, mill the grain and sell it to residents at P20 per kilogram.
Evangelista said they first sold the rice at P25 per kilogram when they first opened the program in March but found in succeeding weeks that they could still lower it to P20 a kilogram.
In the last seven weeks that the city government has been running the program, the cheap rice has become a blockbuster among residents, some of whom traveled all the way from remote villages to buy the cheap staple sold at the City Hall grounds under the “Mercado Kidapaweño” program.
However, the city government limited the rice sale to only 1,000 residents per week, at a maximum of five kilos each.
Since the program is not open to outsiders, those who want to buy the rice need to present an identification card showing they are residents of the city and its 40 villages. However, it was not clear if those who bought the grain the previous week can return to buy the next week. The city has a population of 160,791 based on the 2020 census.
Mercado Kidapaweño features not only rice but also vegetables and other basic commodities at lower than prevailing market prices.
At the time when the prevailing price of commercial rice ranges from P38 per kilogram for broken rice to P45 per kilogram for well-milled rice, the P20 per kilogram proved a relief to residents, so that in the first weeks when the program opened, people were found camping along the avenue leading to the City Hall grounds on the eve of the Saturday sale. Even senior citizens and persons with disabilities can be seen near the City Hall grounds on Saturdays.
Buy back program
Under the city’s “buy back” program, farmers accredited with the city government can access P20,000 financial assistance from the city government.
Each farmer pays half of the amount to the city government after harvest, when the city agriculture’s office buys their palay at the prevailing NFA price of P19 per kilogram. The city mills the palay to produce premium and quality rice sold at the Mercado Kidapaweño.
Evangelista said they wanted to expand the program but the city would need the approval of the NFA and the Department of Agriculture to implement it down to the barangay level.
The mayor said he had also sent a letter to the Office of the President, asking the office to allow him to bring the cheapest rice to the city villages but was still waiting for the reply.
Evangelista assured the public that the city has enough palay stocks stored in a warehouse to ensure that the sale of cheap rice to city residents would continue every Saturday’s Mercado Kidapaweño.
“[The operation is] only breakeven because we don’t collect profits out of this program,” Evangelista said. “We only want to ensure that people in Kidapawan City have access to cheap rice and have sufficient food,” he added.
He said he was sorry to hear that some people from the city’s remote villages had encamped at the city avenue just to ensure that they would be first in line and they’d get their priority numbers when the Mercado opens.
But the mayor said they had opened the city gym for an overnight stay of residents. He also ordered the city agriculture office’s personnel to begin selling the rice as early as 4 a.m. to allow those staying at the gym overnight to go home to their villages earlier.
Evangelista said they were waiting for a go signal from the NFA to open the Bigasan sa Barangay in selected villages as this could ease the influx of constituents to the city business center.
He said they planned to add at least P5 million to the program next year and another P5 million in the succeeding years.
Evangelista was optimistic that the success of the program would push the national government to do its share to ensure food sufficiency in the country.
He also urged other mayors to implement the program in their areas.
“If Kidapawan can do it, why can’t neighboring towns and cities do it, too?” he asked. “It’s just a matter of political will,” he said.
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