More municipalities to benefit from rice liberalization
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - June 17, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Approximately 1,200 municipalities in the country are expected to reap the benefits of rice liberalization as the government finalizes the guidelines for the farm mechanization component under the rice competitiveness enhancement Fund (RCEF).

The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) said the 1,200 municipalities that would facilitate the deployment of farm equipment and machines in the next six years is set to be identified under the guidelines.

PhilMech is set to receive half of the P10-billion RCEF as part of the opening up of the rice market to cheap imported rice.

“Registered irrigators associations and farmers cooperative will be the beneficiaries of the equipment. The government cannot just give to every individual,” PhilMech chief science research specialist Rod Estigoy said.

“Our distribution will be in pacing because the real challenge is really to purchase and utilize that big of an amount. Hopefully, by the end of the year, we will be able to distribute initial units,” he added.

Each of the municipality should have a viable farmers organization with at least 100 hectares of irrigated rice lands. The 1,200 municipalities are located in 16 the country’s regions that host farming activities.

PhilMech targets to distribute a complete set of machines in every municipality, from land preparation to milling, which would normally cost around P15 million to P20 million per set.

Before the actual deployment and distribution of farm machines in the 1,200 municipalities start, PhilMech would conduct “mind-setting” activities like information drive and technical briefings to prepare farmers to adopt to mechanization.

However, Estigoy said a “one-size-fits-all” approach would not be used by PhilMech in increasing the farm mechanization level of the 1,200 municipalities.

He said there are municipalities that already have a certain degree of farm mechanization while there are those that still rely largely on human or animal power in the various phases of rice production.

Hence, PhilMech will have to study what type of farm equipment and machines would be deployed over a cluster of municipalities.

Of the P10 billion RCEF, half will be allocated for mechanization of rice farms, P3 billion for provision of high-yielding inbred rice seeds, P1 billion for credit support, and P1 billion for extension support and education of rice farmers.

The Philippine Rice Research Institute will take the lead in providing high-yielding inbred rice seeds to farmers while the Agricultural Training Institute and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority will undertake the training of farmers and extension workers.

PhilMech will also develop and provide the modules for the training of rice farmers.

Meanwhile, Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines will support the credit component of the RCEF.

Studies showed that the cost of producing a kilogram of palay in the Philippines is P12.72 compared to P6.22 in Vietnam and P8.86 in Thailand.

The components under RCEF can reduce the cost of producing palay in the country by P1 to P3 per kilo.

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