By Orly Guirao | Correspondent
SANTA BARBARA, Pangasinan—Availing of the World Bank’s $502-million (P24.96 billion) Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) fund, Gov. Amado I. Espino III is now pushing the wheels for his Agro-Industrial Enterprise (AIE) program aimed at ushering the farmers to the world of entrepreneurship.
To jump-start the program, the governor last Tuesday turned over a P1-million farm tractor equipped with a rotivator, leveller and trailer to the multipurpose cooperative of Mapandan Women’s Unity for Progress in fitting rites at the provincial government’s agriculture nursery compound in Tebag, Santa Barbara.
“With the equipment, we can now step into the first stage of our agro-industrial enterprise program, which we envision to have our agriculture industry improved and, at the same time, raise our farmers’ income,” the governor said.
Espino asked the beneficiary, the first in a list of 24 cooperatives enlisted in the PRDP’s small livelihood package, to “handle with care” the equipment and use it as a role model in mechanized farming.
Of the equipment’s cost, the provincial government has a counterpart of P200,000 and a similar amount shouldered by the Department of Agriculture (DA), while the P600,000 is a soft loan by the national government with the lending institution.
The governor’s AIE program got a “shot-in-the-arm” from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan after the legislative body approved a resolution last Monday authorizing the governor to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the farmer-beneficiaries of a massive rehabilitation project on irrigation systems.
Sharon Viloria, the DA’s PRDP head in the region, said a World Bank study indicates the farm equipment will increase agriculture income by 30 percent, with individual farmers sharing 5 percent more profit in marketed products.
The World Bank-PRDP soft-loan portfolio started in 2014 to speed up agro-industrialization in the country.
In partnership with the local government units, the DA is also focused on developing microenterprises through its Investment on Rural Enterprise for Agro-fishery Productivity Program.
Studies are now being undertaken on the feasibility of putting up of cold storage and processing facilities for agriculture products and by-products, said Nestor Batalla, provincial rice farming director and assistant provincial agriculturist.
Batalla said a plan is now being worked out to accelerate and expand the cacao and coconut industry in the province, as he noted there are vast tracts of land available and suitable for the venture.