Philippines needs more farm machinery to catch up with neighbors—DA chief

By: Kristine L. Alave, July 3rd, 2012 07:31 PM

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala: Targets 0.8 ha/hectare farm mechanization

MANILA, Philippines—To keep pace with rice-exporting countries like Thailand and Vietnam, the Philippines must raise the rate of mechanization in its farms to .8 horsepower per hectare from the current .57 hp/ha, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Tuesday said the DA has allotted P6 billion to increase the use of machinery and other farm equipment in Philippine farms.

“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,” he said.

The amount is used to buy various farm production and post-harvest machinery and equipment that the DA provides to qualified irrigators’ associations, farmers’ groups and local government units. The DA shoulders up to 85 percent of the equipment cost, while the remaining 15 percent serves as the equity or local counterpart of the beneficiaries.

“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,” said Undersecretary Joel Rudinas.

Thailand and Vietnam are both rice-exporting countries. The Philippines, which imports rice to feed its growing population, eyes to join their club by 2014.

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

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

Agriculture officials said Filipino farmers are reluctant to use machineries for fear that it would displace laborers. Officials also noted that Filipino farmers do not have the capital to invest in harvest and post-harvest equipment.

Filipino farmers, DA said, are one of the least mechanized in Southeast Asia. Officials said a high level of mechanization in agriculture leads to greater yield and better income for farmers.

Assistant Secretary Dante 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,” he added.

The production and post-harvest machinery and equipment that the DA will buy for this year include rice drum seeders, transplanters, power tillers with trailers, mini-four-wheel tractors, hand tractors, floating tillers, reapers, seed cleaners, rice cutters, threshers, combine harvesters, collapsible dryers, hermetic cocoons, laminated sacks, flatbed and mechanical dryers, multi-purpose drying pavements or solar dryers, including construction of palay sheds, warehouses, rice mills and processing facilities.

Alcala also called on the private sector to invest in agricultural facilities like dryers, mills and silos. As part of its efforts to entice private-sector investment in agriculture, the DA is spearheading Makina-Saka 2012 or the 2nd Agri Machinery Roadshow on July 4-7, 2012, at the World Trade Center, in Pasay City.

Makina-Saka 2012 also features conferences and workshops of the country’s Irrigators’ Associations, Small Water Impounding Systems Associations, other farmers’ groups and associations, and Agricultural and Fishery Councils.

President Aquino has been invited as guest of honor and speaker on July 5. Alcala and farmers’ groups will present the Food Staples Sufficiency Program policy document to the President.

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