The Department of Agriculture (DA) yesterday announced it would be implementing a “no cluster, no assistance” policy in the farm sector beginning this year to encourage consolidation and scale up crop production.
The aggressive push for consolidation, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said, was aimed at promoting an easier and cost-efficient process for the agency to reach out to farmers, especially in terms of providing them technology, inputs, equipment and training support.
Dar said the department would provide incentives to consolidated farms on top of the regular assistance they provide under the agency’s commodity programs. Incentives would come in the form of machinery, processing equipment and infrastructure support.The policy will initially cover farmers planting cassava and corn beginning this year, but will eventually be expanded to include producers of rice, coconut, sugarcane, banana, coffee and vegetables.
National Corn Program director Lorenzo Mamauag Caranguian said corn and cassava farms would be clustered into five levels, each with corresponding interventions and assistance.
The five levels refer to clustered farms with contiguous areas of between 200 and 1,000 hectares for corn, or between 50 and 500 hectares for cassava—to be organized with a set of officers and managers.
The DA will provide these clusters with appropriate training on entrepreneurship and production. The clusters will also be made capable of venturing into postproduction activities such as processing, value-adding and marketing.
“It is important to convince farmers and their respective cooperatives and associations to merge and come together to optimize the interventions and assistance provided by the DA and other government agencies,” Dar said.
“We will urge them to scale up by clustering and consolidating their farms to attain economies of scale. This will enable them to greatly reduce their cost of operations, attain bountiful harvests, and earn bigger incomes,” he added.
Farm clustering is one of the eight paradigms under the agency’s “new thinking for Philippine agriculture,” which the agency has been advocating since August last year.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the country’s farm holdings are generally small and fragmented. Of the 5.56 million recorded farms, 39 percent were half a hectare and below, while roughly 32 percent ranged between 1 and 3 hectares.
Through consolidation, farmers are expected to save from production costs and be less vulnerable to risks.
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