Nat'l rice mechanization program takes off
(by Vladimir B. Caliguiran  3/15/2011)

Agricultural engineers, and rice experts and program coordinators from the different agencies and regions of the country convened to strategize the rice mechanization program of the Department of Agriculture (DA). This is to complement the program to help attain rice self-sufficiency by 2013.

DA Assistant Secretary for Operations and Director of the DA-Rice& Corn program Dennis B. Araullo challenged the delegates to craft the implementing guidelines and strategic plans for mechanization to achieve food security.

"Mabawasan lang ang 15 percent to 5 percent postharvest losses ay magiging rice self-sufficient na tayo (If only we can reduce the 15 percent postharvest losses to 5 percent we can be rice self-sufficient)," ASec. Araullo said during the opening of the National Consultative Workshop on Agri-Pinoy- Rice Mechanization Program held in PHilMech last February 24-25.

The rice mechanization program aims to optimize the utilization of rice farms and labor productivity through the use of modern farm technologies from production to postharvest operations. The DA will assist farmers through the provision of on-farm machineries such as shallow tube wells, hand tractors, four-wheel tractors, drum seeders, combine harvesters, threshers, rice reapers and seed cleaners. Off- farm facilities like dryers and modern rice mills will also provided.

According to past studies, Philippines has a very low level of mechanization which is estimated at 0.52 hp/ha, one of the lowest in Asia. In contrast, Japan has 7.00 hp/ha mechanization level as revealed in a study of the Regional Network for Agricultural Machinery in 1990.

Assistant Secretary Araullo also said that the "facilities should address the problems on climate change" like drought and floods brought by La Niña and El Niño phenomenon.

According to Agri-Pinoy InfraMech Task Force leader Dr. Michael Gragasin, the identification of the recipients of these technologies will start at the end of March this year. The DA Regional Field Units (RFU) will implement the farm mechanization program until 2016.

He also said that the task force envisions an additional 1M MT of milled rice in the domestic supply. This could feed approximately nine million Filipinos in a year. This will come from the "five percent increase in production through farm mechanization and 5 percent reduction of postharvest losses with the use of appropriate facilities".

DA-RFU 1 Executive Director Atty. Cipriano Santiago and DA senior technical consultant Dr. Santiago R. Obien, both proficient in agriculture policy making, attended to oversee the workshop.

The Agri-Pinoy (Agrikulturang Pilipino) is "strategic framework of the DA that guides the various programs of the agency from 2011-2016 and beyond". The framework is anchored on "food security and self sufficiency, sustainable agriculture and fisheries, natural resources management, and local development". ###