DA seeks P2.4 B in 2013 to mechanize rice farms

THE Department of Agriculture is seeking a P2.4-Billion budget in 2013 to further increase rice production and farmers’ incomes, and subsequently increase the country’s farm mechanization level and keep pace with neighboring Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said “our target in the medium-term is to increase the current farm mechanization level at 0.57 horsepower per hectare (hp/ha) to 0.8 hp/ha.”

For the national rice program alone, Alcala said the DA proposes a P2.4-B budget in 2013  citing the department has already allotted P3.6 billion (P1B in 2011 and P2.6B this year), or a total of P6 B.

The mechanization program is spearheaded by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development Mechanization (PhilMech) in tandem with the DA national commodity programs (rice, corn, high value crops, livestock and fisheries), regional field units, and other concerned agencies.

In 2011, the DA rice program has procured P1-B worth of 2,300 units of various production and postharvest machinery and equipment, including 429,450 pieces of 10-square meter laminated sacks or ‘trapal’ that serve as dryers.

This year, with a P2.6-B budget, the DA targets to provide IAs, other farmers’ groups, LGUs with more than 7,000 units of various farm machinery and equipment.

For his part, DA Undersecretary Joel Rudinas said “we want to provide the environment that would encourage the private sector to invest in the country’s farm machinery industry. We plan to reach a farm mechanization level of 0.8 hp/ha, similar to that of Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.”

He said other developed countries like Japan and South Korea are already highly mechanized, at 7 hp/ha and 4 hp/ha, respectively.

“We want to move from traditional to mechanized farm labor by enabling our farmers acquire appropriate farm machine and equipment so they could perform various farm and postharvest chores faster and more efficiently, and thus produce more harvest and earn more income,” said Rudinas.

“Secondly, as we are vulnerable to climate change, with farm machines we could devote less time for land preparation and harvesting. We could plant early, and similarly harvest early with the use of harvesters, thus avoiding possible damage due to typhoons,” he added.

For his part, Assistant Secretary Delima said “we do not intend to displace any farm labor. Instead, we aim to increase farm labor productivity. More importantly, with the use of farm machinery, farmers could prepare their land at the same time and adopt a synchronized rice planting schedule. This practice would enable farmers to monitor and effectively control crop pests, and subsequently minimize production losses.”

The DA is spearheading Makina-Saka 2012 or the 2nd Agri Machinery Roadshow, July 4 to 7, 2012, at the World Trade Center, in Pasay City, to showcase the latest farm production and postharvest machinery and equipment, and technologies.

He said the DA will explore other alternative sources of energy, which are cost-efficient and sustainable, to power farm machinery and equipment.

“We will therefore encourage manufacturers to develop farm machines and equipment that could run efficiently on alternative sources of energy,” Delima said.

Finally, he said “we will also have to train new breed of farmers on how to properly use and maintain farm machinery, equipment and facilities.”



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