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Monday, July 15, 2024

Speaker: Agri law to hike rice output 40%

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Speaker Martin Romualdez on Sunday said the New Agrarian Emancipation Act is expected to boost rice production by 40 percent, or from 70 cavans per hectare to 100 cavans per hectare.

“I have a strong feeling that the new law would pave the way for our farmers to produce more rice, which is our basic staple, and other crops that they grow in between rice planting,” he said.

The new law writes off “all principal loans, unpaid amortization, and interests” of 610,054 agrarian reform beneficiaries from the time of the late President Marcos Sr. up to the present.

The unpaid obligations are estimated to amount to about P58 billion.

The Speaker said the majority of the beneficiaries of the new law and who are tilling about 1.1 million hectares of land are rice farmers.

“Now that our farmers will soon be free of debt, I hope that they willbe able to increase their produce to at least 100 50-kilo bags per hectare, from the present 60 to 70 cavans. But of course, the government will have to help along the way,” he said.

To erase the agrarian reform beneficiaries’ indebtedness is just the first step in assisting them to attain better productivity and achieve rice sufficiency for the country, Romualdez said.

“The next step is providing them with or giving them access to credit, technology, equipment, inputs, and other vital support services,” he said.

Romualdez said a farmer whose agrarian reform debt has been erased but who doesnot get help in obtaining credit for production and other needs mayturn to usurers who would drive them into debt again.

“So it is important that we are there, our concerned agencies arethere on the ground to assist them,” the Speaker said.

“Irrigation is as important as credit and farm inputs in increasingthe farmers’ produce. Without irrigation, our rice farming sector willnot be able to improve from 60 to 70 cavans per hectare,” he added.

For her part, Senator Cynthia Villar, a principal sponsor of themeasure, said the law offers farmer-beneficiaries “a fresh start, away out in a cycle of debt and poverty.”

Villar, the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food,and Agrarian Reform, said farmers and farmworkers are waiting for theenactment of this measure, which will make possible their dream ofreceiving their land titles.

“Without land in their name, our farmers cannot access credit as theylack collateral to secure the same,” Villar said.

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