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Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion has expressed gratitude to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for its willingness to assist its Kapatid Angat Lahat Program Agri Program (KALAP) that aims to boost the livelihood and improve lives of small farmers.
“We thank the Department of Agrarian Reform for expressing willingness to help our initiative to help our farmers scale up,” Concepcion said during a meeting with DAR officials, led by Secretary Conrado Estrella.
“Uplifting the lives of our small farmers is a daunting task. We need all hands on deck to accomplish this and we are glad that we have DAR Secretary Estrella’s commitment to extend a helping hand,” added Concepcion, who is also the lead of the Private Sector Advisory Council-Jobs Sector Group.
During the meeting, Concepcion emphasized the need for small farmers to achieve scale, saying it would be hard for them to succeed without it.
“Farmers cannot obtain a loan from banks that they can use to boost production and improve their lives because they cannot use their land as collateral under agrarian reform law,” he said.
Among the recommendations by KALAP and think tank group Foundation for Economic Freedom, represented by Dr. Fermin Adriano, is the implementation of farm clustering to boost productivity and help ensure food security.
“Clustering does not mean consolidation of land ownership but merely the clustering of land for better production scheduling,” said Adriano, adding this process has already led to higher farm productivity in China, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, among others.
“The process would enable the government to effectively provide assistance to farmers who are clustered because it will deal with groups rather than millions of individual small tillers,” he added.
It will also pave the way for the use of modern farm machinery and technologies, thereby achieving economies of scale, and allow the development of downstream industries like food processing activities, because of adequate and reliable supply of raw materials.
The process would also improve access to government services like extension, credit for clustered farms. Farming will also be more attractive to private sector groups to invest in agriculture because of lesser transactions.
To accelerate farm clustering, Adriano called for the immediate and proper implementation of the law condoning the debt of defaulting agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB).
“The implementing rules and regulations of the law must ensure that the administrative burden of transferring land ownership to farmer beneficiaries is not burdensome and allow beneficiaries to enter into a leasehold contract agreement with investors but ensure that land will not be converted to non-agricultural uses,” he said.
Adriano also advocated for the promotion of agricultural joint-venture agreements between small landowners and agribusiness corporations. Estrella, for his part, expressed support to the proposal, saying the DAR can check within their network of beneficiaries.
The DAR chief also lauded the KALAP’s big brother companies for their commitment to share their technology and best practices with the DAR and their willingness to become an assured market for the farmers.
“I am happy that KALAP’s big brothers are willing to share their technology with DAR. We want to tap into the knowledge of the big brothers to better prepare the beneficiaries of agrarian reform so that the land will be utilized properly,” Estrella said, adding they can also help extend credit assistance to agrarian reform beneficiaries if needed.
Meanwhile, National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Administrator Eddie Guillen said the private sector plays a huge role in the success of the agriculture sector.
“Around 80 percent of the success of the agricultural sector depends on the private sector. If magsucceed ito sa mga agri reform beneficiaries, mas madaming makikinabang,” he said.
Guillen also revealed that President Marcos wants to harmonize concerned agencies and their functions, instead of establishing a task force.
President Marcos earlier ordered the geomapping of all agricultural lands in the country to establish soil maps for specific agricultural products to ensure increased yield and improve farmers’ income.
The Go Negosyo-DAR meeting was also attended by DAR Undersecretaries Jesry Palmares, Marilyn Barua-Yap, Kazel Celeste, Napoleon Galit and Amihilda Sangcopan, NIA Deputy Administrator Ralph Du.
Aside from Concepcion and Adriano, other KALAP members present were Winston Uy of Universal Leaf, Tennyson Chen of Bounty Fresh, Nando Cojuangco of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, James Amparo of Yovel East Agriventures, Michelle Gankee of SL Agritech, Jovy Hernandez of Metro Pacific Agro Ventures, Dr. Leo Obviar of San Miguel Foods, Francisco Dizon of Dizon Farms and Aldiz Incorporated, Atty. Haziell Pascua of Lionheart Farms and Go Negosyo Executive Director Mina Akram.