MANILA – Farmers are excited about the Department of Agrarian Reform's plan to create "mega-farms" to help the government bring down the price of rice to PHP20 per kilo, according to DAR Secretary Bernie Cruz.
In a message sent to the Philippine News Agency on Thursday, Cruz said that they have already started discussing the Mega Farm Project with some farmers' groups and that they have received positive feedback from them.
Cruz added that the project will be part of the report that they will turn over to the next DAR Secretary.
“Already started discussion with some farmers' group. Our farmers are excited po. It’s part of the transition team report, para kung sino po yung papalit sa akin makakapag-start agad (So that whoever replaces me may implement them immediately),” Cruz said.
He said a federation of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and landless peasants called Task Force Mapalad (TFM) has expressed support for the Mega Farm Project.
However, the group stressed that to make the project a success, a strong political will by the next administration is required.
To realize the project's objective to bring down the price of rice, the TFM provided some suggestions such as fine-tuning the project and hastening the distribution of lands covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to farmers who may join the mega-farms.
“The consolidation of farms into a huge plantation may be acceptable to CARP beneficiaries once government commits itself to providing farmers crucial inputs like fertilizer, pesticide, and fuel at lower prices. Irrigation services must be expanded to supply these mega-farms with water,” the TFM said in a press release issued on Wednesday.
They added that apart from inputs, the government must also guarantee that banks expand their credit portfolio in the countryside consistent with the law, and provide farmers with the cash they need for rice production.
Cruz was pleased to know that TFM sees the potential of the Mega Farm Project in bringing down the price of rice.
“We are open to constructive inputs and suggestions that are viable in ensuring the success of this project,” he said.
He added that the DAR continues to do research and craft policies on the project, also dubbed “Programang Benteng Bigas sa Mamamayan” (PBBM)," to ensure that it is achievable and profitable for the ARBs.
Based on DAR’s studies, a 150,000-hectare farmland can produce an average of 142 sacks of rice per hectare per cropping season, translating to a gain of PHP76,501 annually for the ARBs. (PNA)