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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

PhilMech takes major role in rice production

The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) will take a major role in modernizing and increasing rice production up to 2016 as it embarks on a large-scale postharvest and mechanization program for the production of the staple.

“Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has a vision of making the country self-sufficient in rice production by 2013, and PhilMech is totally behind this effort to achieve that, especially now that climate change and rising world food prices are expected to make an impact on world food supply in the future,” said PhilMech Executive Director Ricardo L. Cachuela.

Under the program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for increasing rice production, mechanization and postharvest will be given second priority after irrigation, that is expected to increase rice production from 5% to 10%.

Farmer associations, organizations and cooperatives will be given the chance to own agricultural machineries with the support of a financing scheme where the government will shoulder 70% of the cost of the farm equipment.

Cachuela said that once the culture of mechanization takes root in rice farming, many farmers would be prompted to expand their planting to other idle lands, which will further increase rice production.

“Rice farming today is not largely mechanized in land preparation, seeding and harvesting, which are the most tedious and time-consuming labor undertakings in farming. Once those activities in rice farming are mechanized, farmers could expand their activities to idle lands,” Cachuela said.

The DA through PhilMech will partner with farmer associations, organizations and cooperatives in the deployment of thousands of pieces of primary farm equipment like hand tractors, 4-wheel tractors (medium) and threshers. The secondary farm machineries that will be deployed include seed cleaners, rice reaper, drum seeder, mini combine harvester and combine harvester.

The number of hand tractors to be deployed from 2011 to 2016 will reach almost 34,000; shallow tube wells 31,000 units from 2012 to 2016; transplanters 9,000 units from 2012 to 2016; threshers 9,000 units from 2011 to 2016; and reapers 3,050 units from 2012 to 2016.

Based on PhilMech research, the mechanization level of farms in the Philippines averaged 0.52 horsepower per hectare (hp/ha). The Philippines still ranks very low among Asian countries when it comes to overall agricultural mechanization. Japan still topped Asian countries in farm mechanization with 7.0 hp/ha; South Korea 4.11 hp/ha; China 3.88 hp/ha; Pakistan 1.02 hp/ha; India 1.0 hp/ha; Thailand 0.79 hp/ha; and Iran 0.70 hp/ha.

“The Philippines has a lot of catching up to do in agricultural mechanization and postharvest. The program for rice mechanization will help boost the mechanization level of farms in the Philippines. Of course, PhilMech also has a postharvest and mechanization plan for other crops like corn and high value commercial crops, but that is still being finalized,” Cachuela said. PRO-Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization

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