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'Block farming' pushed in Philippines ahead of Asean integration

Publication Date : 05-05-2014

 

Block farming, a consolidation of small sugarcane farms of agrarian reform beneficiaries to ensure plantation scale profit, is beginning to bear fruit with their output having doubled over the last two years, according to Philippine Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) chief Ma. Regina Martin.

“The key to surviving the Asean Free Trade  Area agreement is for farmers to lower cost, increase production and become more efficient,” she said, explaining the concept of the practice.

At the rate block farming is going, there is nothing to fear or worry about beyond 2015, she added.

Martin was one of the speakers at the Peace and Equity Foundation kapihan session attended by representatives of foundations and cooperatives  in the sugarcane industry at the Sugar Industry Foundation Inc. (Sifi) training center in Talisay City, Negros Occidental last week.

The forum was held to discuss how businesses and farmers can continue to develop in a low to zero tariff Asean environment next year, PEF executive director Roberto Caligo said.

PEF is an organisation that aims to help poor households by supporting, promoting and scaling up sustainable social enterprises in communities.

The organisation is funding small farmers in two block farms in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.

Caligo said farms of about 2-3 hectares, are consolidated into 30-hectare block farms to improve yield and manage cost. PEF is providing financing for  farm inputs, labor and training.

Martin said there were 29 sugarcane block farms in the country and they  hoped to create 68 more.

The SRA has hired 100 additional agriculturists and engineers on a contractual basis for six months to fast track the creation and success of block farms, she said.

PEF treasurer Pacita Juan stressed the need explore the production of value-added sugar products for specialty upscale markets to boost earnings.

“People are becoming more conscious of their health in the United States and are shifting from the use of high fructose corn syrup to cane sugar,” Juan said.

“We should take advantage of this and seize the opportunities by making value-added sugar products,” she pointed out. “We cannot depend on government to do everything.”

Sifi president Edith Villanueva said they were looking at best practices that would optimise sugar production at lower costs.

 

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