THE Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is constructing a model sugarcane farm for solar-powered irrigation this year in Moises Padilla town.

It will be first of the three projects to be implemented in Negros Occidental, which produces 60 percent of the country’s sugar output.

The development was announced by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol during the opening of the five-day 1st Philippine Sugarcane Industry Mechanization Expo at the SRA Visayas office here Monday, March 13.

The solar-powered irrigation system with an estimated cost of P5 million is up for bidding this month. It will irrigate 50 hectares of sugarcane farm in the southern Negros town.

Piñol said the allocation was already included in the 2018 annual budget of the government and is up for implementation this year.

“Through this project, we will determine how big the increase in production is,” the Agriculture chief said.

He pointed out the need to provide irrigation for farmers to earn more since irrigated sugarcane fields are more productive than non-irrigated areas.

In 2017, the DA and the SRA identified three pilot areas in the province for the implementation of solar-powered irrigation project, mainly for sugarcane farms.

The two other projects are also up for implementation next year.

Piñol, in his speech, asked the help of Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, who was also present at the activity, to sponsor a bill providing more irrigation for sugarcane farms in the country.

“We will show to sugarcane farmers that it is better to irrigate,” Piñol said as he pointed out that irrigation is among the five key components of increasing farm productivity.

Others are technology, better farming tools and fertilization, mechanization, and easy access to financing.

SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, for his part, said the irrigation project is seen to really boost local sugarcane farmers.

“SRA will not stop in looking for new innovations for sugarcane farm development like proper and economic way of land preparation, drainage, cultivation, weed control, fertilization, and mechanization, among others,” Serafica added. (PNA)