Farm mechanization in the Philippines is shifting to higher gear as more farmers show willingness to mechanize their farmlands, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Tuesday.
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 now 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.
“The recent years, especially the last two to three years, 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,” said PhilMech Executive Director Rex Bingabing.
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 post harvest operations.
Bingabing expressed confidence that the Philippines will reach a farm mechanization target of at least 2 hp/ha by 2016, adding that the 3 hp/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 being 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.
Catching up with neighbors
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.
“PhilMech observed during the past years, however, that more farmers are gaining interest toward mechanization. Every time we go around the country for field inspections, the farmers are the ones asking how to avail of the machineries. In the coming years, there would be a lot of farmers acquiring machineries,” Bingabing said.
He added that farmers now realize that they can recover their investments in farm machinery, since their production is enhanced and postharvest losses are reduced.
“For example, a palay [unmilled rice]harvester costs from P1.5 to P2 million. According to those who invested in harvesters, they can recover their investment in two to four croppings,” Bingabing said.
When it comes to farm mechanization in Asia, Japan remains the leader with 7hp/ha, followed by South Korea at 4.11 hp/ha, China with 4.10 hp/ha and Vietnam at 1.56 hp/ha.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s farm mechanization level was pegged at 1.02 hp/ha. and India 1 hp/ha. Thailand has a higher farm mechanization level than Vietnam.
In line with this, Bingabing urged farmers to take advantage of the Department of Agriculture’s program, which allows farmers to gain more interest in mechanizing their farms the 85-15 cost sharing scheme—wherein the government shoulders 85 percent of the cost of a farm equipment and the qualified farmer organization shoulders the remaining 15 percent.
Bingabing noted that there are still farmers who acquire farm machinery without going through that program.
“The purpose of that program was to help show that farm machineries improved productivity. At first, there was apprehension. But now more farmers are getting interested in mechanization. This is a sign that the Philippine agriculture sector is modernizing,” he added.
James Konstantin Galvez