Sugar-block farms get P424.6-million assistance from government

To encourage farmers awarded with lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to continue cultivating sugarcane and increase the country’s annual sugarcane output, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said it has allotted a total of P424.6 million for them under the sugarcane-block farming project.

There are a total of 99 established sugarcane-block farms across the country mostly in the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Tarlac, Pampanga, Batangas, Albay, Camarines Sur, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Cebu, Leyte, Bukidnon, Davao del Sur and North Cotabato.

The DAR recently forged ties with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) for the implementation of the sugar-block farm project over a three-year period, which started in June.

This, as the DAR, the DA and SRA claimed that sugar-block farming in 19 pilot sites in Luzon and the Visayas, was “successful,” as it resulted in a 29-percent increase in annual output.

Sugarcane-block farming project involves the consolidation of government-awarded lands to agrarian reform beneficiaries with 3 hectares, or less, to be integrated into 30 to 50 hectares.  At the Hacienda Luisita alone, at least 10 farmers’ organizations have been formed for sugar-block farming.

Sugar-block farm operators are awarded with heavy equipment, including tractors for land preparation and dump trucks for hauling by the DAR, while the DA and SRA provide technical training to further boost farm production.

In a statement, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio R. de los Reyes said the project aims to boost the capacity of agrarian-reform beneficiaries to start their own sugarcane plantation as new owners of the lands through different schemes, such as partnership, joint venture and sharing, while preserving individual ownership of their awarded lands.

Individually, farmers awarded with lands in sugar estates covered by CARP will have a hard time making their lands productive, because sugarcane requires special cultivation that requires the use of heavy equipment, such as tractor during land preparation alone.  Huge trucks are also needed to haul the sugarcane to sugar mills after harvests.

Under the DAR-DA-SRA partnership, the DAR will provide a package of support to make sugarcane production possible and will contribute P424.6 million.  The SRA will provide an additional fund of P30 million.

“These funds will be used for the provision of farm equipment, farmers’ trainings, construction of farm-to-mill roads and establishment of livelihood activities,” de los Reyes said.  The project was first pilot-tested in Luzon and the Visayas in 2012.

“Based on our experience, block farming doubles farmers’ yield and lowers their farming costs,” SRA Administrator Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin said.

“Applying our program to these sugar plantations led to an average of 29-percent increase in productivity,” Martin added.

The pilot farms, she said, harvested an average of 65.29 tons of cane per hectare during crop year 2013 and 2014, up from the previous average yield of 50.78 tons per hectare upon the program’s implementation in 2012.


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