THE Agriculture department has given away P135.4 million worth of farming equipment to rice and corn farmers in Iloilo, it said in a statement yesterday.

Farmers received 27 hand tractors, 20 rice threshers, 20 pump engines, a corn sheller, two walk-behind transplanters and a ride-on transplanter. Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar led the distribution on Sept. 24, which also included four floating tillers, four mini four-wheel tractors and two mobile dryers.

The National Food Authority of Western Visayas also gave away farming machinery to cooperatives that help procure palay or unmilled rice to ensure the country has enough rice buffer stock.

The equipment included 15 mobile dryers, 11 mini four-wheel tractors, 11 combine harvesters, 11 transplanters and 250 granule applicators.

Mr. Dar encouraged farmers to form cooperatives so they will have “leveraging powers” and help develop the agriculture sector.

The Agriculture department has distributed P675,000 financial assistance to farmers, while the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. has awarded P147 million in insurance coverage, the agency said. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang