VILLASIS, Pangasinan

About 1,105 tobacco farmers from Pangasinan benefited from the PHP21.5 million worth of grants and loans extended by the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) for the 2023-2024 cropping season. NTA-Pangasinan branch manager Roger Madriaga, in an interview on Thursday, said about 400 tobacco farmers have availed of the Curing Barn Assistance Program (CBAP), which has a budget of PHP8 million for the covered period. The CBAP extends assistance to farmers for the repair and construction of their curing barns, where they dry the harvested tobacco leaves.

“Through CBAP, they buy the necessary materials to cover their harvest in case of rain or to prevent direct sunlight,” Madriaga said in Filipino. Madriaga said the NTA also released PHP13.5 million to 705 tobacco farmers in the form of cash and material farm inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides, under the Tobacco Contract Growing System
(TCGS). “TCGS has three components, which are financial, technology, and marketing. We subsidize the farmers depending on their needs through financial assistance and technology, while we monitor the implementation of the
technology,” he said.

For both programs, 40 percent of the amount loaned, which has a four-year term, was subsidized by the government
and the farmers will only pay the 60 percent, with an interest of 2 percent annually. Meanwhile, Madriaga said only 1 percent to 2 percent of the more than 2,000 hectares of tobacco plantation in the province have been affected by the El Niño phenomenon. “Iyong mga late planters lang talaga ang naapektuhan kasi yung mga nakapagtanim ng tama sa panahon eh wala pong problema sa source of water.

Pero (yung) mga late planters mahina na tubig, underground kasi (ang) source (Those who planted late were affected but those who planted on time have no problem with water supply. Those who planted late experienced water scarcity because the source of water is underground),” he said. The planting season cutoff date for tobacco is from
October to Jan. 15, and farmers may harvest the leaves within 55 days to 60 days. Madriaga said tobacco plants prefer sunlight over rain. “But it also does not want direct sunlight so there are curing barns to air dry the leaves,” he said.

Hilda Austria/PNA

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