TRENTO, Agusan del Sur—Farmers in four towns of Agusan del Sur province are slowly weaning away from unfavorable relations with middlemen and traders, thanks to the assistance to set up a rice processing plant from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Leomides R. Villareal, DAR-Caraga director, said some 200 farmers who are agrarian reform beneficiaries organized into a cooperative were granted P21 million to set up their own rice processing business.
The grant covered acquisition of rice milling equipment, warehouse power supply, mechanical dryer and mist polisher, and construction of solar dryers.
It was part of the Convergence of Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment (ConVERGE) project which is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development with 20 percent of the cost borne by the local governments.
The project also provided equipment to aid farmers to pursue mechanized farming.
With the project, the 200 farmers from the towns of Veruela, Trento, Bunawan and Sta. Josefa have now become new entrepreneurs engaged not just in rice production, but also processing and marketing through the Southern Agusan Seed Producers Cooperative (SASEPCO).
When once they were forced to sell their palay to traders who offer unfavorably low prices, the farmers will now sell to SASEPCO which, in turn, do the milling and marketing of rice.
SASEPCO had just won a bidding to supply the Department of Social Welfare and Development with P16 million worth of rice. Prospective customers are the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the D.O. Plaza Memorial Hospital.
Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Jamil P. Amatonding Jr. said this new arrangement puts the farmers in far better position to weather the negative impact of the Rice Tarrification Law (RTL).
Maximo Gegato, SASEPCO manager, said 20 of their 200 members stopped planting rice and instead grew bananas because of heavy losses in their harvest last year as a result of the declining prices of palay.
He said traders pegged the palay prices at P700 to 800 per 50-kilo bag from what used to be P1,000 to P1,400 before the implementation of RTL.
But Amatonding assured that this sad plight will be a thing of the past as the farmers are expected to increase their yield by 30 percent when they will fully benefit from the cost-effective mechanized farming system, at up to P74,000 per hectare.
Amatonding said the modern farm inputs would boost the production of the rice farms while significantly reducing the expenses incurred, especially during the planting season.
Based on the results of their strategic planning with the farmers, Amatonding said expenses will be reduced significantly from what used to be P37,000 per hectare, which drove the farmers further into indebtedness with the traders.
He explained that if a farmer yields P74,000 per hectare, with the mechanized inputs that lessen their expenses, net income is estimated to be from P45,000 to P50,000 per hectare.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.