• Alcala backs new law on farm mechanization

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    The Department of Agriculture (DA) welcomed the enactment of Republic Act 10601, or the Agricultural and Fishery Mechanization (AFMech) Law, which aims to greatly improve the land and labor efficiency in the country’s farming sector.

    In his statement, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that mechanizing Philippine agriculture and fisheries will increase farm production and farmers’ income, as more cropping intensities will be pursued that will result in higher plant growth.

    Authored by former senator Francis Pangilinan and Rep. Mark Leandro Mendoza of Batangas, the new law also aims to help reduce postharvest losses now at 10 percent to 37 percent for rice, and 30 percent for corn, as well as accelerate product value-adding through agro-processing.

    The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the AFMech Law is expected to be completed by September 26.

    The AFMech Law aims to diversify farms and agricultural products, particularly the intercropping of the 2.1 million hectares of coconut lands, which have remained idle and underutilize for many years.

    Based on the findings of the AFMA Experts’ Review in 2004, the dismal situation of agricultural and fishery mechanization in the country is caused by limited farmers’ access to appropriate and affordable farm machinery and equipment, proliferation of substandard machinery and equipment, as well as inadequate and fragmented support services.

    “All these problems will be address by AFMech,” Alcala said.

    To provide more farmers with access to appropriate and affordable farm machinery, the AFMech law shall strengthen local manufacturing of agricultural machinery and equipment through joint venture and the granting of incentives under Executive Order 226, or the Omnibus Investments Code of 1987.

    “This, in turn will lower the investment cost and create employment particularly in the countryside,” Alcala said.

    Agri-fishery machinery service centers shall also be established in key production areas for custom plowing, harrowing, harvesting, drying, milling and other services that may be owned and operated by registered farmers, cooperatives and associations, Alcala said.

    To curb the supply of substandard machinery and equipment, the government will prohibit the sale, mortgage, or lease of farm machineries that do not meet government testing standards and registration with the soon-to-be-created Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Engineering.

    Selling of new farm machinery without after-sales service will also be prohibited, Alcala said.

    Philmech survey
    Based on the latest survey conducted by the DA-Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), the level of mechanization in farms across the country has reached 1.23 horsepower per hectare (hp/ha)—with rice and corn areas recording the highest level of available farm power at 2.31 hp/ha.

    In the last two to three years, PhilMech Executive Director Rex Bingabing said that the developments have been significant in farm mechanization, mainly because one of the reasons is the rice mechanization program, which has accelerated the adoption of farm machinery. The survey to come up with the latest farm mechanization figure covered 2011 and 2012.

    Based on the survey of PhilMech field personnel, 70 percent of the total farm power is available for use in production operations while the remaining 30 percent is for postharvest operations.

    Bingabing expressed confidence that PhilMech will reach its farm mechanization target of at least 2 hp/ha by 2016, adding that the 3hp/ha is “doable.”

    The last official figure on farm mechanization was released in the mid-1990s, where it was pegged at 0.52 hp/ha.

    In December last year, PhilMech, citing initial results of a survey on farm mechanization undertaken, said that the farm mechanization level in the Philippines was at least 1 hp/ha, with rice and corn farms having around 1.60 hp/ha.

    The PhilMech chief said that while the latest figure of 1.23 hp/ha shows that farm mechanization is gradually taking root in the Philippines, he admitted that the country is still behind some of its Asian neighbors.

    “We are still a little behind, because Thailand is still ahead of us. And developed countries like Japan and Korea are way, way ahead,” he said.

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