THE Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) of Negros Occidental is pushing for a convergence with various government agencies in its bid to ensure agricultural development in the province, its top official said.
Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino, who attended the Joint System Management Committee Meeting for local government units (LGUs) covered by the Bago River Irrigation System at Sugarland Hotel in Bacolod City on Wednesday, said he will ask Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. to issue an Executive Order (EO) asking government agencies to constitute a “convergence group” along with OPA.
These agencies include the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC), National Food Authority (NFA), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Department of Agriculture (DA) as well as LGUs in the province.
Masculino said he already initially discussed the “concept” to representatives of agencies present during the committee meeting, except the LBP and DA, and they expressed positive response to it.
“We hope to also bring this up to the two other agencies,” he said, adding that “this convergence will serve as a venue for us to sit down, talk and agree on measures towards developing our agriculture sector.”
The provincial agriculturist pointed out that there has been no “integration” over the years. Meaning, each agency is working on its own plans and directions.
Masculino said that once such convergence will be realized, the group can work together mainly on achieving sufficiency on major agricultural products in the province, especially rice.
Having a rice sufficiency level of 94 percent, Negros Occidental is the only province in Western Visayas deficit in terms of production of the said commodity.
Under the said convergence, Masculino said PCIC take charge of the provision of insurance, NFA for marketing, NIA for water management, LBP for a loan, DA and PhilRice for technical support like inputs, and OPA for technology and close coordination with LGUs and farmers.
“We are optimistic to start this integrated approach within the year,” he said, adding that this will complement the existing efforts to boost agriculture sector like farm mechanization, irrigation water system development, hybridization, and stronger collaboration with the farmers through agriculture technicians.
OPA is starting to develop a 200-hectare rice farm at Barangay Taloc in Bago City into a model farm through full mechanization.
Under the program to be started during the second cropping season this month, the province will provide the machinery and operate the farm from land preparation, transplanting to harvesting.
Farmers will not pay such services during the start of production, but after they can harvest.
Aside from fully mechanizing the farms, farmers will be introduced to Production Loan Easy Access program and insured through the PCIC.
Masculino said agriculturists will also conduct a weekly agriculture clinic for farmers to be given immediate interventions resulting in better production.
“Once the program is successful, we will expand it to other areas covered by the Bago River Irrigation System and eventually to other irrigated areas in the province,” he said, adding that through this measure “we hope to revolutionize or transform the local agriculture sector to a better one.”