‘Mega farms’ will hike agricultural output, income of planters–solon


TO increase agricultural production and attain food security, a lawmaker on Sunday urged the Duterte administration to invest heavily in “mega farms” across the country by increasing the 2022 budget of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte asked Malacañang and Congress to raise the outlay of the DAR in the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022. This, he said, will allow the agency to carry out its plan to develop or consolidate farms into 50-hectare plantations devoted to the specialized commercial production of specific crops.

“Consolidating small farm lots into mega farms for commercial farming is the only way to dramatically boost agricultural output and farmers’ incomes, even at this time of the pandemic, as such consolidation will lead to economies of scale,” Villafuerte said in a statement.

“The development of ‘mega farms’ for either priority or high-value crops will help the country attain food security, if not sufficiency, and turn the often anemic agricultural production into a growth driver that will let us achieve soon enough a strong and sustainable recovery from the pandemic-induced global recession.”

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has committed to submit to Congress on August 23 the government’s 2022 National Expenditure Program (NEP), which will be the last spending program of the Duterte administration.

Villafuerte said agriculture’s negative growth of minus 2.5 percent in the January-to-June period should serve as “a wake-up call” for legislators to help the Duterte administration reverse the farm sector’s anemic growth by allocating a bigger budget for the DAR in the NEP for 2022.

Citing Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, Villafuerte said the value of agricultural output in January to June suffered its biggest drop in five years, or since this sector contracted 3.6 percent in the first half of 2016.

Before the PSA’s announcement of negative growth for the year’s first semester, he said the Department of Agriculture had already lowered its full-year growth target from the previous 2.5 percent to just 2 percent, in apparent anticipation of a weaker performance resulting from the impact of the Covid-19 and African swine fever outbreaks, among others.

Last year, Villafuerte said he pushed a higher allocation for the DAR during the House committee deliberations on the then-DAR budget for 2021.

In particular, the lawmaker said he sought for an increase of P3 billion to P5 billion in the DAR’s 2021 outlay so it could finally carry out its Mega Farms and Food Security Program.

“The DAR submitted the mega farms proposal to the House. I have expressed support for this concept as it involves consolidating farms now owned by beneficiaries into 50-hectare plantations in order to develop these for commercial farming. This presents us with the only way to liberate the farmer-beneficiaries of CARP [Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program] from subsistence farming,” Villafuerte said.

He had suggested a higher 2021 budget for DAR upon learning during a committee hearing that the DBM approved an allocation of only P8.8 billion for DAR last year, which was 7 percent lower than the department’s budget of P9.5 billion for 2020.

The lawmaker said DAR Undersecretary Bernie Cruz also told Congress that the department will not have enough funds to implement its Mega Farms and Food Security Program.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

Leave a Reply