Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol yesterday stressed that farm mechanization is the key to the survival of the sugarcane industry, and that P700 million in loans is available this year to enable stakeholders to make the shift towards greater productivity.
The Department of Agriculture has P400 million available at 6 percent interest per annum with no collateral, and the Sugar Regulatory Administration has P300 million for farm mechanization now, and more will be allocated in 2019, Piñol said.
Piñol was in Bacolod for the opening of the five-day 1 st Philippine Sugarcane Farming Mechanization Expo at the SRA compound at Araneta Street in Barangay Singcang, along with Senator Sonny Angara and SRA Administrator HermenegildoSerafica.
He also distributed start up capital of P1.8 million to 22 block farms.
Piñol, in urging industry stakeholders to go into mechanized farming, said “The name of the game right now is greater productivity and efficiency.”
The average yieldof sugarcane farms in the Philippines is 59 tons per hectare compared to Thailand at 75 tons, he said, adding that Philippine producers should aim for even just 70 tons per hectare.
“The secret for greater income for our farmers is greater productivity. In the face of the dwindling supply of farm workers right now there is a real need to mechanize,” he said, pointing out that it is faster, more efficient and covers larger areas.
“Efficiency plus greater productivity equals greater income for the farmers,” he pointed out.
He said the ongoing farm mechanization expo should have been done 50 years ago.
The problem with the industry stakeholders is that they are too slow to adopt to modern technology, he said.
Increasing productivity is the key word to survival and this can be achieved through technology, irrigation, better farming inputs and fertilization, mechanization and access to financing, Piñol said.
Angara said farmers have no other option but to mechanize to survive.
The senator, who supported the tax hike on High Fructose Corn Syrup toprevent it from driving down the prices of domestic sugar, said it should not make industry stakeholders complacent.
He called on government to strengthen its farmer training programs on technology advancement and utilization of new agricultural machineries to improve productivity and incomes, especially of small farmers.
“Farming mechanization can increase land productivity by facilitating quality cultivation. It can improve farmers’ livelihood and ultimately reduce poverty,” he said.
Angara said he would look into the Department of Budget Management’s failure to fully allocate the P2 billion due the sugar industry annually under the Sugar Industry Development Act.
Serafica, in stressing the need for change in sugar industry farming, said, “When we mechanize, we eliminate 80-90 percent of our labor problems. Farm mechanization also makes us more efficient, lowering production cost, thus making us more competitive.”
He called on the sugar industry stakeholders to take advantage of the exhibits at the expo until Friday. The LandBank, Philsucor and other commercial banks will be joining us to facilitate your loan applications, he said.
Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. and Bacolod Mayor EvelioLeonardia, who welcomed the expo participants from all over the country, echoed the importance of farm mechanization to the sugar industry.
Farm mechanization is long overdue, we were thinking about it 20 years ago but the problem then was what to do with the farm workers, he said.
But today there is a shortage of workers on the farm as they are now working for construction workers and in other more lucrative jobs, he said.*CPG
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