Government’s thrust on farm mechanization making Filipino farmers globally competitive

MANILA, Dec. 1 (PNA) — The thrust of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s administration to promote mechanization in agriculture is rapidly making Filipino farmers as competitive as their counterparts in the Southeast Asian region, the Department of Agriculture said Tuesday.

This was asserted by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala during the opening of the 2015 Makina Saka at the Philippine International Convention Center.

Makina Saka, which was first staged in 2012, showcases the latest in farm technologies that were developed for Philippine conditions, and includes actual demonstrations and seminars on the benefits of mechanization.

Alcala pointed out that increasing mechanization of rice and corn farms has been instrumental in the dramatic rise in the country’s rice and corn production which posted historic highs in 2014.

“Farm mechanization lowers production costs, lowers postharvest losses and raises farmers’ incomes. The great strides the Aquino government has made in promoting mechanization have borne fruit such that we are now at a level comparable with our ASEAN neighbors in terms of rice and corn prodcution costs,” he said.

Based from a study made by the DA’s Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) on rice farms using combo harvesters and mechanical transplanters in Regions 1 and 2, production costs reached PhP7.87 per kilogram.

This is much lower than the national average of PhP11 per kilogram.

In comparison, Thailand is at PhP8.37/kg while Vietnam is at PhP6.07/kg.

The Agriculture chief said that the staging of Makina Saka has been a leading catalyst in the mechanization trend.

“Makina Saka has been a successful tool in promoting mechanization. Now on its 4th year, we hope that the program that the DA and PhilMech spearhead could be sustained beyond the Aquino government,” Alcala said.

Meanwhile, PhilMech executive director Rex Bingabing said that greater accessibility to new technologies has caused mechanization trends to firmly take root in the country.

He noted that about five to six years ago, there was some opposition to farm mechanization because many farmers doubted the benefits it would provide and many feared of a massive displacement of farm labor if farms are mechanized.

“However, continuous efforts to promote mechanization through the development of locally-made machineries that are not only cheaper but are more suitable to Philippine conditions have led to faster adoption rate by farmers,” Bingabing said.

He said that the country’s mechanization level for rice and corn is now at 3.0 horsepower per hectare (hp/ha) – 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 the late 1990’s, our mechanization rate stood at only 0.5 hp/ha. Practical demonstrations and the proliferation of newer and cheaper farm technologies gradually increased farmer’s acceptance of mechanization,” Bingabing said.

The PhilMech executive added that mechanization has also attracted young blood to the country’s agriculture sector.

Because of the drudgery inherent in traditional farming methods, the younger generation had been shunning farming in favor of working as laborers in the construction or manufacturing sector, causing a labor shortfall in many areas of the country.

“While we were once faced with the big problem of aging farmers retiring with nobody to replace them, farm mechanization is now attracting the younger generation to the farming sector,” Bingabing said.

In the meantime, Makina Saka runs from December 1 to 3 with at least 55 exhibitors showcasing their farm technologies to the public.

This year’s seminars and presentations at the event is aimed at demonstrating the overall impact of farm mechanization on the country’s farms as the country gears to secure it food needs. (PNA)