Nineteen pilot block farms showed an average increase from 50.78 Tons Cane per Hectare (TC/Ha) to 65.29 TC/Ha, or a 29 percent increase in farm productivity in crop year 2013-2014 after being enrolled in the block farming program for a year, a press release from the Sugar Regulatory Administration said yesterday.
Block farming was introduced in the pilot farms in 2012 by the SRA in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agrarian Reform.
With the capacity-building, technical assistance, farm planning and farm management support provided by SRA, all the pilot block farms showed increases in productivity that ranged from 7.47 percent to 100 percent, the press release said.
Hda. Bernardita ARB MPC in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental, showed a 7.47 percent increase from its initial productivity of 77.00 TC/Ha to 82.75 TC/Ha with block farming, it said.
Also, the North Cluster Producers COOP in Paniqui, Tarlac showed a 100 percent increase in productivity from 50 TC/Ha to 100 TC/Ha, the press release said.
This average 29 percent increase in productivity would translate to an estimated average increase of farmers' income by P39,815 per hectare, at 1.96 LKG/TC and a composite price of P1,400 per LKG-bag of raw sugar, the SRA said.
Block farming is the consolidation of the management of small farms of less than five hectares, into a bigger but contiguous unit of at least 30 hectares for purposes of improving farm productivity while individual ownership is preserved, the SRA explained.
Based on SRA records, about 85 percent of sugarcane farms in the country have areas five hectares and below, due to the natural course of land subdivision by inheritance, sale, and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, the press release said.
While sugarcane is a plantation crop and its cost-efficiency is best achieved with bigger farm sizes of at least 30 hectares, with the aggressive implementation of the CARP, farm sizes are fragmented into small landholding of less than five hectares wherein farm owners can no longer take advantage of the economies of scale, it said.
This is aggravated by the fact that most of the present land owners, especially CARP beneficiaries, do not have the financial capability to provide the proper farm inputs which resulted in low productivity, the press release added.
This is one of the greatest hurdles that the sugarcane industry faces, it said.
The Block Farm Program envisions the conversion of the consolidated farms into agribusiness centers through professionalized farm management and mechanized farming; with provisions for logistical, financial, technical, marketing and production support services from various government agencies, banking and financial institutions, and private sectors, it added.
To date, 130 block farms have enrolled for accreditation, with a total area of about 7,000 hectares, the press release said.
Of these, about 90 block farms will be assisted under the new SRA-DAR-DA convergence which is set to start this month, while about 50 block farms will be assisted under the Sugarcane Industry Development Act next year, it added.