Piñol urges farmers to use guide map for crop planning

LIGAO CITY, Albay – To make farming profitable, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol urged farmers here to embrace technology with the aid of the government's newly produced color-coded guide map.

Piñol, during the Farmers' Day celebration on Saturday, March 25, explained that the guide map aims to prevent the guessing game when it comes to identifying crops for cultivation.

Accessible through farmersguidemap.gov.ph, the map will not only assist the farmers in identifying the suitable crops to be planted on their lands, but also provide data on climate conditions and soil adaptability.

When Piñol took office last year, he had criticized previous officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for outdated soil data. This prompted nationwide soil testing to be able to create a guide map for farmers under the Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA) program.

The government invested about P36 million for the guide map that was launched this month.

Piñol also announced that the DA will be putting up solar-powered irrigation panels throughout the Philippines. In Bicol alone, at least 10 panels will be placed.

"We don't need to build a water dam to irrigate our farmlands. Instead, we will put up a solar-powered irrigation system. Through the solar-powered irrigation facilities, even a waterless farmland could be irrigated as this technology can locate water and siphon off water for 6 hours – enough to irrigate waterless farmland and even provide drinking water," he said.

Accessible loans

The DA chief aims to achieve food sufficiency by 2020 using these technologies, coupled with financing schemes for farmers.

Currently, the average yield of a farmer per hectare is just 4 metric tons, compared to Vietnam with 7 metric tons. The Philippines is short of 1.8 million tons to feed the Filipino people, Piñol said.   

To address this, Piñol earlier submitted a proposal to the House of Representatives to modify the current credit accommodation for farmers.

"When I joined the government under President Duterte there was P3 billion available for farmers' financing, but [the funds were] not downloaded due to bureaucracy, numerous paper requirements," he said.

"Under the new scheme, farmers could get a loan as much as P50,000 [which] could be released in 3 days without collateral. We need to correct and modify the loan with maturity period after the farmers harvest their crops and recover their expenses," he added.

Piñol also pledged to request for additional funds for agriculture in 2018. The DA was only given P46 billion for 2017 and Piñol plans to ask the Department of Budget and Management for a P150-billion allocation for next year.

"If the country wants to double rice production, we have to double our budget for farmers," he said. – Rappler.com