GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 July) — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is pushing for the implementation of a new support program that would provide free seeds and other inputs to palay or rice farmers for two cropping seasons starting next year.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said they are currently working on the details and arrangements for the initiative, which he described as a top priority of the DA and the national government’s rice self-sufficiency program.
He said President Rodrigo R. Duterte gave the go-signal for the program’s implementation during their cabinet meeting last week.
“I was able to convince the President that over the next three years, DA will support farmers for two planting seasons by providing them with free seeds and fertilizers,” said Pinol, who held a consultation with farmers and fisherfolk here on Tuesday.
He also graced the 50th foundation anniversary celebration of South Cotabato and 17th T’nalak Festival in nearby Koronadal City.
Under the scheme, Pinol said farmers who would avail of the free seeds and fertilizers are required to deposit in a bank the equivalent amount of the inputs after the first harvest.
“This is to ensure that they will have money to buy seeds and other inputs that they would need for the next planting,” he said.
Pinol said the program is similar to the old practice of rice farmers wherein they store a portion of their harvests to serve as buffer supplies for the next planting season.
He said such practice needs to be revived to also help local farmers cope with the impact of climate change, specifically the onset of El Nino and La Nina phenomena.
“Climate change has made everything unpredictable for our agriculture sector. We need to be really prepared and make it must for us achieve food or rice sufficiency in the process,” he said.
Pinol urged local government units to identify and report to the agency the coverage of their existing rice areas for the proper allocation of the free seeds and fertilizers.
He said they should also submit a list of their proposed rice expansion areas and the needed interventions, especially on irrigation.
The official said DA is ready to provide communal irrigation projects and other related machineries to facilitate the opening of new rice areas.
During the consultation here, Pinol led the turnover of around P190 million worth of farm machineries, fishing gears and projects to farmers’ and fisher folk groups as well as local government units here and nearby Sarangani Province.
He said DA will deliver more support projects and machineries to local farmers in the coming months as part of the continuing farm modernization program. (MindaNews)