Agrarian Reform beneficiaries who plant sugarcane on their awarded landholdings should consolidate their lands to plantation sizes to make sugarcane production successful, with the projected entry of tariff-free imported sugar due to the full implementation of the Asean Free Trade Area agreement.
Sugar Regulatory Administrator Gina Martin made this suggestion to Agrarian Reform beneficiaries from Tanjay, Pamplona, Bais, Manjuyod and Mabinay, Negros Oriental, in a forum at the Bais City public market recently.
The forum, held in cooperation with the City of Bais and the Department of Agrarian Reform, was the fifth organized by the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce, the Negros Oriental Business Development Foundation, Department of Trade and Industry.
Martin said that sugar is a plantation crop and planting sugar on one or three-hectare landholdings will not augur well for the sugar industry if it has to compete with other sugar producing countries like Thailand and Brazil.
She said the SRA is consolidating the land distributed by the Department of Agrarian Reform.
Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, the government bought sugarcane plantations and distributed lands to the tillers, with most agrarian reform beneficiaries occupying about one hectare of land.
The DAR also has a program for farm mechanization, where it will provide tractors to state universities and colleges or the private sector to be used as a business tool for farmers, its undersecretary for support services, Jerry Pacturan, said in the same forum.
But Martin said one hectare of land is not enough for mechanization. The lands for sugarcane have to be the size of plantations so they can be properly and professionally managed, she said.
The Philippines has 480,000 hectares of land planted to sugarcane and there are 28 sugar mills in the country. In contrast, Brazil has six million hectares of sugarcane and 430 sugar mills, she said.
The panelists also said the government needs to revisit its policies regarding CARP, environmental laws and the minimum wage law.*AP
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