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Last updateMon, 22 Sep 2014 10pm

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Sugar farmers hope for higher income under agri program

BALAYAN, Batangas—Sugar-cane farmers in Batangas province who are enrolled in the Sugar Block Farming program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) are expressing hopes that lower production costs—and possibly higher yields—will increase their income.

Members of the Lucban Multipurpose Cooperative, one of the program’s four beneficiaries in Batangas, are now collating reports to determine if the program helped increase their output.

The program was introduced in Batangas to introduce better sugar-cane practices to farmers and boost the productivity of selected sugar-cane block farms.

The DA and DAR aim to establish 45 sugar block farms, including Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province, which is being distributed to the 6,212 qualified farmer-beneficiaries identified by the agrarian-reform department.

The program’s long-term objective is to enhance the skills of agrarian-reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and their organizations in agricultural entrepreneurship.

When the program was introduced, DA and DAR officials promised to reduce production costs from P1,100 to P900  per  50-kilogram bag of raw sugar, increase farm productivity from 60 tons to 75 tons of sugar cane per hectare and establish at least one agribusiness activity per sugar block farm, such as producing organic fertilizers, raising poultry or fattening cows.

The cooperative was provided with a 10-wheeler truck and a 90-horsepower heavy-duty tractor with farm implements, which substantially reduced production cost and added income to the members.

“As far as the cost of production is concerned, [it] was substantially reduced,” said Elvin Mirasol, agrarian reform officer in Batangas’s Balayan town.

According to him, the town’s sugar-cane harvest that started in December is almost 90-percent complete.

“We [are] now conducting individual computation of the crop production for 2012-2013,” Mirasol said. “Lower production [cost], by itself, will translate to higher income.”

“We are just hoping that the yield would also increase from an average of 60 tons [of sugar cane] to 70 tons per hectare or more,” he added.

The DAR official is confident that there will be a minimum increase of 10 tons per hectare.

 

Outreach program

MEANWHILE, an outreach program for the sugar industry was given in the area in partnership with the Sugar Regulatory Authority.

In the program, farmers were trained in the cultural management of sugar farming.

According to Leonor Magno, the cooperative’s manager, members are now spending wisely on fertilizers after they were trained.

Magno, whose father is an agrarian-reform beneficiary, said they used to buy 20 bags of ammonium sulfate, which they use to fertilize their half-a-hectare sugar-cane farm. This was reduced to 15 bags this year, saving them P3,750.

Jonathan L. Mayuga

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