MANILA, Philippines – The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to open 29 sugar block farms across Visayas and Mindanao this year.
Block farms are plots of land that belong to Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) beneficiaries. These usually have area of 30 to 50 hectares. Smaller farms of less than 10 hectares will be consolidated through joint ventures.
The block farm scheme is part of the sugar industry roadmap. The roadmap aims to make land preparation, planting, fertilization and harvesting more profitable and cost-efficient.
The SRA-DAR MOA stipulates that ownership of block farms will remain with CARP beneficiaries. SRA will only be tasked with providing technical assistance.
The deal is the second phase of the block farming scheme. The program aims to make local sugar production more efficient and cheaper. The first phase was implemented in Batangas last year.
The second phase will give participants access to the Agrarian Production Credit Program, which is under the Department of Agriculture, DAR and the Land Bank of the Philippines.
This phase will cover 8 locations in Negros Occidental, 6 in Negros Oriental, 5 in Bukidnon, 2 in Iloilo and 2 in North Cotabato. There will also one block farm each in Tarlac, Batangas, Albay, Antique, Capiz and Davao del Sur.
Improved skills, higher yields
According to SRA administrator Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin, the new block farms would improve the technical and entrepreneurial skills of CARP beneficiaries.
A budget of P41.4 million was allotted for the 29 sugar block farms. DAR will provide P29 million of the total cost, while DA will cover the remaining P12.4 million. SRA will be in charge of technical assistance and livelihood support.
The program aims to increase the country’s average sugar cane yield per hectare from 60 tons to 70 to 80 tons. Sugar farmers face competition from ASEAN rivals due to free trade agreements that would lower tariffs on agricultural goods to 5% or lower.
The Philippine sugar industry’s biggest threat is cheap exports from Thailand. These compete with local products and drag domestic prices down.
The Philippines remains a sugar exporter. The United States is the country’s top market. – Rappler.com
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