The Department of Agriculture said yesterday it is pleased with the private sector's response to the government's farm mechanization program as the use of farm machineries has steadily increased throughout the country.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the private sector has been very supportive of the farm mechanization program that the DA has initiated since the start of President Benigno Aquino III's administration, as gauged from the proliferation of newer and cheaper farm technologies in the country.
Citing from DA records, he said that the government has only given out 200 combined harvesters to farmers' cooperatives throughout the country, but currently there are now more than 2,000 of the units being operated in the Philippines.
“It means the private sector sees that the program is good and has begun investing on farm machineries. They are starting to see the benefits of the government's farm mechanization program and they are emulating it,” he said.
The Agriculture chief said that the program -- which aims to increase harvest and reduce losses with the use of modern planting technologies for the benefit of local farmers -- is now in full swing. It targets to increase farmers' income by almost 15 percent with the use of modern machines and methods.
“The DA's farm mechanization program intends to increase our farmers' knowledge about appropriate production technologies in preparation for the effects of climate change. With mechanization, post-harvest losses are also expected to go down,” Alcala said.
He noted that in the old milling methods, 50 percent to 53 percent is the average recovery rate whereas milling recovery in rice can go as high as 65 to 68 percent using modern machines and means.
Meanwhile, mechanical dryers dry more grains faster, and the quality of mechanically dried grain is superior than grains dried using archaic techniques.
Based on a 2010 study conducted by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), a total of 16.47 percent of grains is wasted after harvest.
Drying and milling losses were established at 5.86 percent and 5.52 percent, respectively, according to the study.
At present, the DA is also gradually integrating rice mills in farmer cooperatives so that in time, they can run their own rice mills.
“The great strides the Aquino government has made in promoting mechanization have borne fruit such that we are now at a level that is at par with our ASEAN neighbors in terms of rice and corn production costs,” Alcala said.
Based on a study made by PhilMech on rice farms using combo harvesters and mechanical transplanters in Regions 1 and 2, production costs reached PhP 7.87 per kilogram.
This is much lower than the national average of PhP 11 per kilogram.
In comparison, Thailand is at PhP 8.37/kg while Vietnam is at PhP 6.07/kg.
Increasing farm mechanization has been the main reason for the lower rice and corn productions costs.
According to the same PhilMech study, the country's mechanization level for rice and corn is now at 3.0 horsepower per hectare (hp/ha) - which is already near the level of Thailand at 4.0 hp/ha – and higher than our level in 2013 which was at 2.31 hp/ha.
In contrast, the country's mechanization rate in the late 1990s stood at only 0.5 hp/ha.
The DA acknowledged that greater accessibility to new technologies, again chiefly due to the support from the private sector, has caused mechanization trend to firmly take root in the country.*PNA
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