AN AGRARIAN reform beneficiaries’ organization (Arbo) in Kabankalan City is poised to pilot rice block farming in Negros Occidental, an official of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said.
Antonio del Socorro, assistant regional director of DAR-Western Visayas, said the cooperative assisted by the agency is currently on exploratory stage of implementing block farming for rice.
Del Socorro said that aside from sugarcane, block farming for rice has already been introduced in some areas in the country.
“We have yet to see the result of the exploration here. Once positive, we can then encourage further expansion in the province,” he said, adding that the agency has already allocated budget for rice block farm project this year.
Del Socorro said they target at least two rice block farms in Negros Occidental for 2018, but the area has yet to be determined.
The DAR is now trying to establish the terms of reference for rice block farm, he said.
Unlike the program implemented by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) setting a definite area of 30 to 50 hectares per block farm, Del Socorro said they have yet to determine their own guidelines for rice block farming.
“We need to establish first the dimension, it might just range from five to 10 hectares because its cultivation is more intensive,” he added.
The DAR official further said that the price of sugar is currently fluctuating, especially in the international market.
Since the price cannot be controlled, the agency is encouraging the farmers to diversify their farming activities.
“Let us not be too dependent on mono crop which is sugarcane. In fact, we have been looking for other products that can be developed,” Del Socorro said.
He added: “Instead of relying on milling alone, we are encouraging other level of economic activities like muscovado production.”
In its bid to eventually expand, the DAR will seek assistance from the Department of Agriculture since the concept of rice block farm is mainly promoting organic farming.
DAR Undersecretary Rosalina Bistoyong said that aside from sugarcane and rice, the agency is also pushing for block farming for corn and other crops.
Bistoyong said with the success ratio they have achieved so farm in sugar block farms, they are looking at expanding to other agricultural crops.
“What makes our approach different is that we are empowering the cooperative composed of various ARBs,” she said, adding that non-ARB members are also taught of block farming as an added result.