South Cotabato to consolidate rice farms for food security

Rice farmers. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 16 January) – The provincial government of South Cotabato will consolidate palay production areas in parts of the province to develop a more viable farming system and promote food security.

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said Monday the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist has been closely working with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other concerned agencies for the implementation of the program starting this year.

He said they are targeting to consolidate a minimum of 200 hectares of palay farms in time for the start of the planting season in May.

“We have actually started the social preparation stage and we’re expecting that everything will be laid out by April,” he said in his weekly radio program “RST in Action.”

Tamayo said they pushed for the adoption of consolidated farming to facilitate access for small farmers to government assistance programs.

He cited in terms of production inputs like seeds and fertilizers as well as postharvest and processing requirements.

In coordination with the DA, the governor said farm technicians will be assigned in the consolidated farms who will regularly engage with the farmers and determine the necessary enhancements to improve their production.

He said they also tapped the National Irrigation Administration to properly synchronize water releases for irrigation with the cropping calendar or schedule.

“We will ensure that our farmers will have access to all the needed inputs so we can meet the production targets in specific areas,” he said.      

With enough inputs, he said local palay farms can increase their production to at least 6 to 7 tons per hectare from the current average of 3 to 4 tons per hectare.

To support the program, he said they will encourage local government units in the province to put up silos and store palay instead of rice to increase the storage life of their buffer stocks.

The governor said the buffer palay stocks will only be milled during the lean months and help control rice prices in the markets.

Tamayo said they are also looking at the possibility of introducing the planting of onion in some areas as alternative produce in between the palay cropping cycles.

Since onion is a seasonal crop, he said palay farmers may plant them at least once a year during the offseason at a production time of 160 days.

Through assistance from the national government, he said the province can invest in the establishment of cold storage facilities to increase the shelf life of onions beyond the usual three months.

“We can produce in bulk here and store them in our cold storage facilities. That way, we will have enough supplies and release them to the markets as needed,” he said.

The market price of onions in the province earlier reached as high as P800 a kilo due to the supposed supply shortage experienced nationwide.

To address the need for imported soybean of local feed producers, Tamayo said they are negotiating with Dole Philippines and other entities for the development of soybean farms.

He said soybeans may be planted in Dole’s pineapple plantation areas, which are situated mainly in Tupi and Polomolok towns, during the “rest period” of the farm lands.

Depending on the soybean variety, Tamayo said the production period covers about four to six months.“If we can open 1,000 to 2,000 hectares of soybean farms we can already solve our need for soya meal. Livestock feed producers actually import about 40 percent of their soybean requirement,” he added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)