DAR pushes farm mechanization
(The Philippine Star) - December 5, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino farmers are now embracing farm mechanization despite initial fears of labor displacement as it is now seen as a way to attract younger farmers into the agriculture sector,  the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (Philmech) said.

 Philmech executive director Rex Bingabing said the reception of farmers to increased use of farm machinery is significantly different from six years ago.

“About five to six years ago, there was some opposition to farm mechanization because many farmers doubted the benefits of mechanization, and there were fears of massive displacement of farm labor,” Bingabing said during the opening of the 2015 Makina Saka farm machinery show Tuesday.

Bingabing said farmers are now seeing the benefits of farm mechanization not only in terms of lowering the cost of production of rice and corn but also as a means of keeping younger farmers in the workforce.

“There are fears of labor displacement with machines but there is also the big problem of aging farmers retiring with nobody to replace them. So farm mechanization is important to attracting the younger generation to the farming sector,” he said.

 A 2014 study done by Philmech and the University of the Philippine Los Baños-Agricultural Mechanization Development Program (UPLB-AMDP) showed the average age of the country’s farmers at over 40 years.

Most rice farmers fall within the 40 to 59 age bracket. In Camarines Sur and Iloilo, a high number of farmers are 60 years old and above.

 Bingabing said with this level of acceptance, rice and corn farms would be able to attain a farm mechanization level of three horsepower per hectare  by 2016 from 2.31 hp/ha in 2013 and 0.6 hp/ha in the 1990’s.

With increased farm mechanization, Filipino rice farmers could be as competitive as their counterparts in Thailand and Vietnam, he said.

Using a mechanical transplanter and a combine harvester, for instance, can bring down the cost of palay (unmilled rice) production from P11 per kilogram to P7.87 per kg.

This would be lower than Thailand’s P8.73 per kg and only slightly higher than Vietnam’s P6.07 per kg.

Farmers, organized as cooperatives, can take advantage of the DA’s farm mechanization program that provides counterpart funding for the acquisition of farm machinery.

The DA can shoulder up to 85 percent of the cost of farm equipment while the qualified farmer organization provides 15 percent of the cost.

The department is urging landless farm workers to organize themselves into farm service providers that could enter into service arrangements with landowners to sustain their livelihood.

Philmech, for its part, continues to develop prototype models of farm machines appropriate for local conditions in a shorter timespan of six to 12 months compared to the usual development period of three to five years.

Among the farm machineries undergoing testing are the fluidized drying system for palay, coconut water pasteurizer, tractor mounted combine harvester, onion seeder, compact village corn mill, brown rice huller, cassava digger, and granulated cassava belt dryer.

ACIRC AGRICULTURAL MECHANIZATION DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM BINGABING FARM FARMERS IN CAMARINES SUR AND ILOILO MAKINA SAKA MECHANIZATION PHILIPPINE CENTER PHILMECH PHILMECH AND THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINE LOS BA
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