Filtered By: Money

SRA pushing for full P2B budget for sugar industry dev't in 2024

Sugar Regulatory Administration administrator Pablo Luis Azcona

VICTORIAS CITY, Negros Occidental – The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is pushing for the restoration of the full P2-billion mandated budget for the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) programs next year.

“We’re pushing for P2 billion, mainly because if from P1 billion to P2 billion everything will double so the budget for block farms will double, the budget for socialized credit will double. That would be a big help for land reform beneficiaries,” SRA Administrator Pablo Luis Azcona told reporters in a briefing here over the weekend.

Under the SIDA or the Republic Act 10659, the government shall allocate P2 billion annually for programs that aim to promote the competitiveness of the sugarcane industry as well as improve the incomes of farmers and farm workers through improving productivity, diversification of products, job generation, and increasing sugar mills’ efficiency.

However, under the proposed 2024 national budget, the approved allocation for SIDA is only P1 billion.

Azcona explained that the allocations for the SIDA fund have been reduced due to failure to fully utilize the P2-billion annual budget.

The SRA chief cited the three-year delay in the purchase of P500 million worth of sugar machinery and equipment as among the reasons for the reduction in allocation for SIDA programs.

He said that currently 50% of the SIDA fund is being utilized for the construction of farm-to-market roads (FMR), while the other 50% is allocated to research and mechanization, socialized credit, block farms development, and scholarships.

“Currently, the block farm budget is fully utilized, our scholarships and FMR are also fully utilized. The only part that we hope we can fully utilize is the socialized credit,” Azcona said.

The SRA chief said the agency is also eyeing to increase the number of block farms.

The Block Farm Program is the consolidation of small farms — including farms of agrarian reform beneficiaries — as one larger farm, with a  minimum area of 30 hectares within a two-kilometer radius, to take advantage of the economies of scale in the production of sugarcane.

“If the budget is increased, our thrust is to increase block farms,” Azcona said.

Latest available data from the SRA shows there are a total of 8,500 hectares of sugarcane covered by the block farming program. —KG, GMA Integrated News