Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes and Sugar Regulatory Administrator Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin yesterday signed a memorandum of agreement to implement the phase 2 of the sugarcane block farming in 11 provinces in the country at the Sugarland Hotel in Bacolod City.
De los Reyes said block farming is implemented to make sure that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program will not be a failure.
The MOA is the result of the convergence of the DAR, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to help improve the lives of the agrarian reform beneficiaries, he said.
The block farming project was first started in Batangas in 2012. This year, the DAR-SRA partnership will cover eight block farms in Negros Occidental, six in Negros Oriental, two in Bukidnon, Iloilo and North Cotabato, and one block farm each for Talac, Batangas, Albay, Antique, Capiz, and Davao del Sur, he also said.
The implementation of the 29 new sugarcane block farms will be funded with P41.4 million assistance from the government, with P29 million from DAR, and the remaining P12.4 million from DA and SRA, de los Reyes said.
Martin said Negros Occidental has already organized 250 hectares of land for the sugar block farming program, that will group small farmers and their lands to create a plantation-size farm for sugarcane production.
A plantation size of at least 20 to 30 hectares will give farmers a productive income at a much lesser expense, she said. “We make sure that those who already received their lands from the government will be grouped together through block farming for better productivity,” she added.
DAR and SRA will give farmers the technical help and credit to strengthen the organization as part of their support services.
“Support services will not just be the sole responsibility of DAR. It is a shared responsibility of DAR-DA-DENR and even the local government unit,” de los Reyes said.
Martin also said that block farming is in preparation for the drop of tariff on imported sugar and other agricultural products in 2015.
She said she is confident the local sugar industry will not be affected by the reduced tariff as long as small farmers are grouped and organized.*LTG