THE Provincial Government of Negros Occidental has expressed optimism that 2021 would be a good year for the local agriculture industry especially for its farmers and livestock raisers.
Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino told SunStar Bacolod that the implementation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) program of the Department of Agriculture is in its third year.
There will be more interventions from the national government like quality seeds, farm machinery, crop insurance and training for the farmers, among others, Masculino said.
"It is our hope that with these interventions, our farmers would become more competitive in terms of production and market," he added.
The RCEF, or Rice Fund, is created under the Republic Act 11203, or the Trade Liberalization Law. It is taken from the tariff revenues of the rice being imported by the country.
The program mainly aims to help improve the competitiveness of Filipino rice farmers and augment their income while sustaining resilience and responsiveness.
The RCEF has an annual appropriation of P10 billion for six years.
Of the figure, 50 percent is allotted for rice farm machinery and equipment; 30 percent for rice seed development, propagation and promotion; 10 percent for expanded rice credit assistance; and 10 percent for rice extension services.
For the rice sector alone, Masculino said the province's ultimate goal is to attain sufficiency.
Masculino said Negros Occidental's rice sufficiency level currently hovers from 85 to 92 percent.
The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist expects a higher level given a higher average production per hectare last year.
"Our prayer is for a kinder 2021 where there are less natural calamities, and less infestation of pests and diseases," he added.
For livestock, which Negros Occidental is currently strong at, the provincial government is pushing for a sustainable backyard raising-based industry this year.
Provincial Veterinarian Renante Decena said local farmer-raisers have already adopted the production methodology as well as animal health strategies and started marketing their products through strong associations.
"The province shall remain as catalyst for the economic development of the local livestock and poultry raisers," Decena told SunStar Bacolod.
Among the major industry gains of the province last year included securing the P6-billion swine industry.
Negros Occidental has maintained its African Swine Fever-free status mainly through strict inspection and monitoring measures in ports and borders.
"We will continue the strong partnership with industry stakeholders especially our animal raisers," he added.