“Farmers not only produce the food and fiber we need, but they help ensure our national security and economic stability.” – Michelle Grainger
The farmers drive the dynamics of economy by way of agriculture. The rigors of farming are propelled by the dirty hands that spur productivity.
As major players, their role cannot be downplayed. In the sugar industry alone, there more than half a million direct participants in its production. More than half of the agricultural land of Negros Occidental is planted with sugarcane but, as far as the data are concerned – it is safe to assume that sugar farms have reduced at about 20,000 to 30,000 hectares. Despite this, the more than half a million sugar workers significantly contribute in rolling out the economy through sugarcane – provided with inputs productivity follows.
The sugar industry needs to be re-invigorated and certainly necessitates re-investments especially among ARB’s because the scale and the extent clearly needs expansion. Also, the need for in-depth assessment and evaluation in relation to government services among ARB’s should be underway. In addition, re-design plans and approaches especially on policies of extending financial assistance and services consistent to Sugar Industry Development Act – the integral provisions such as block farm must be reviewed and, what corresponding services went well and did not.
But, while this is undertaken, re-focusing to other agricultural crops must be in order in order to compliment efforts undertaken to sugarcane.
SUSTAIN BUT SHIFT
With the decline of production areas and the backwardness of the production system of sugarcane with seemingly limited support among ARB’s coming from the government it is imperative that shifting and re-investment to other crops valuable to economy and, at the same time ensuring food security must be in order.
Moreover, even though irrigation water is properly used in the locality, water wastage must be minimized considering the threat of longer El Nino. According to data, in terms of irrigation for rice farming, availability ranged from always (49.2 percent) to sometimes (47.6 percent) and due to the lack of other bodies of water in their area, the majority claimed that they have no other sources of water aside from the irrigation system.
Next to sugar cane, rice is the next major product of the province yet availability and maximization of irrigation is not enough. Our irrigation system is focused on rice production. It is important to consider building facilities for irrigation systems appropriate to our local communities especially to sugar production areas and make proper and acceptable agreements among ARB’s especially those whose lands are productive yet do not have the capacity for irrigation. Contiguous production areas for sugarcane are the ideal ones to be considered in consideration to scale.
The provincial government has started to shift efforts to other high valued crops including livestock. The cattle, hog and goat industries have been given priorities among the livestock.
For other products like banana, coffee and cacao – the whole supply chains of these major products is another imperative. This means from production to marketing measures are curbed and, not on a piecemeal approach. Coffee, for instance, as a major product must be undertaken holistically that can also empower local producers by providing them trainings from production to processing. Facilitation of the technical and legal gaps of the local associations and ARB’s such as certifications and registrations for marketing are equally important.
POULTRY AND LIVESTOCK
The hog and swine industry in particular, shows that in 2021, Negros is the leading producing province in the region. Negros alone needs an average of 1000-1500 heads per day in the market. However, the concern at the moment is the hog cholera that re-imposes stricter control. For cattle, Western Visayas is one of the top 5 regions producer of cattle with Negros leading the pack among the region’s province of this P10B industry.
Also, the demand for eggs are growing as well as the poultry industry – layers and chicken are increasing. There is at least a 5 to 10 percent demand for eggs and chicken meat annually. There is an existing demand of 850,000 daily in Negros.
Technology and capitalization must be prioritized to complement NGOs efforts among small farmers.
Simultaneously, it is very possible in undertaking these efforts in order to re-energize the agriculture significantly contributing to Negros economy. This is not to say that there are no efforts being undertaken – there are breakthroughs, they only need to be sustained on a strategic pursuit.*