By Madelaine B. Miraflor
An Israeli firm has offered to provide the Department of Agriculture (DA) funding support worth P44 billion for the latter’s Solar Powered Irrigation System (SPIS) program, while another firm, also from Israel, volunteered to set up demonstration farms for upland irrigation system sans advanced payment.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said in two separate statements that a couple of firms from Israel – namely Netafim and Innovative Agro Industry Ltd. (IAI) – pledged to finance or bankroll DA’s irrigation push.
Netafim is an Israeli manufacturer of irrigation equipment, while IAI is based in Papua New Guinea and is an affiliate of LR Group, a leading project development company in Israel.
Piñol said that IAI will provide technology as well as funding to his agency that should be enough to build as much as 8,000 units of SPIS to be spread out across different parts of the country.
To build this much SPIS, funding worth P44 billion is needed, something that the Israeli firm could provide, IAI Chairman and Executive Director Ilan Weiss told Piñol.
When sought for further details, the DA chief said the loan will be payable in 10 years with two year grace period.
“They say they have done it for other projects in other countries,” Piñol said.
According to Piñol, IAI has agreed to collaborate with Gentromech Engineering Company, the firm that won the government contract to manufacture SPIS, in terms of designing the new SPIS, which will now utilize Israel’s technology and design.
Piñol was told that the Israel design will be less costly than the set up being used by the DA now, which requires the construction of a huge reservoir to store water which then is distributed to the fields.
“We bring with us our vast experience in this field, including fertigation
technology which could double or triple the yield of your crops,” Weiss said.
The SPIS in Tagum City will be the first unit to be constructed using such design and is expected to be completed in three months or less.
Meanwhile, Netafim Philippines, in partnership with DA, is also set to establish demonstration farms for irrigated upland rice and sugarcane farms in several areas in the country.
Without citing any amount, Piñol said the Philippine government will only have to pay Netafim once the rice and sugar farms already started making profit.
“The funds [payment] could also be sourced from [DA’s budget] for agriculture research,” Piñol said.
The rice and sugarcane farms will be irrigated using Israel’s ‘drip system’, which could help improve the yield for both commodities.
The upland rice farms will be established in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato and Saranggani, two provinces where farmers have been growing upland rice varieties like Dinorado for several years now.
The sugarcane farms, on the other hand, are located in Negros Occidental, the country’s largest sugar producer.
“Initial experiments using drip irrigation in sugarcane farming showed that farmers’ yield increased by more than two-fold. With a national average production of 54 metric tons (MT) per hectare, a farm in Negros harvested 148 MT on the first harvest and 160 MT on the first ratoon,” Piñol said.
As for rice, irrigating upland rice farms will only be done in the country for the first time. Traditionally, upland rice yields would only be about 1.5 MT to 2 MT.
“The DA and Netafim would still like to determine the increase in upland rice yield when the farm is provided with drip irrigation. Planting of upland rice starts March and April,” Piñol further said.