The Philippines is now moving towards farm consolidation and clustering in the agriculture sector, which will limit the government support being given individually to farmers and fishermen so they will be forced to cluster into groups or cooperatives.
A statement showed that Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar has signed DA Administrative Order (AO) 27, which sets into motion the Duterte administration’s farm consolidation and clustering program.
This project, called Farm and Fisheries Clustering and Consolidation (F2C2) Program, will help the government attain economies of scale and enable more farmers, fishers, and agriculture entrepreneurs to produce and earn more from their toil.
Through the F2C2 program, the government aims to channel assistance such as credit, modern production methods, farm machinery, post-harvest and program facilities, transport and logistics, packaging support, as well as information and communication technologies, to farm and fishery clusters.
The DA, through its Agricultural Policy and Credit Council (ACPC), will also provide farm clusters credit financing.
However, to avail of projects offered under F2C2, the DA has set a minimum clustered area of 100 hectares for palay, fruit trees, perennials, and fiber crops, while its 75 hectares for corn and other grains. It is 50 hectares for vegetables and high-value crops.
For livestock producers, they must have a feed mill within the production area, while small and large ruminants’ growers must have centrally-managed grazing land and feed production systems.
Free-range chicken and other livestock raisers should have focused and well-delineated community growing territories, while in the case of fisheries and aquaculture, their cluster must have community-based production zones or processing facilities or community fishpond leases.
DA also said that cluster production areas must either be contiguous or in close proximity within a village.
For areas that are not contiguous, these should be located within a municipality or congressional district.
Dar said the F2C2 program is needed to enable the agriculture and fishery sector attain economies of scale, and thus achieve cost-efficient production, harvest, processing and marketing operations subsequently increasing farmers’ and fishers’ incomes.
“We will count on the strong support of farmers’ groups and local government units to successfully undertake our joint F2C2 program,” Dar said, adding that the first major challenge is consolidating the country’s fragmented small farmholdings.
Over the past years, the average size of farms in the Philippines has already dwindled from three hectares per family/holding in the 1980s to only 0.9 hectare in 2012, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
In the fishery sector, the vast majority of Filipino fishers remain tied to very small boats that can only go as far as the municipal water boundaries.
Many countries have long adopted farm and fishery clustering. Among the famous farm clusters are Saemaul Undong or New Village movement in South Korea; Kibbutzim in Israel; Keizai Kosei Undo in Japan; Federal Land Development Authority and Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority in Malaysia; among others.
To kickstart the farm clustering program in the country, Dar instructed the DA regional directors to identify at least two pilot F2C2 cluster projects.