More machines for rice farms

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The government expects to exceed last year’s level for the distribution of machineries under the rice mechanization program, the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) said on Thursday.

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In a press conference, PhilMech Executive Director Rex Bingabing said that as of October 2013, the agency has coordinated the distribution of 602 hand tractors out of the 920 targeted for this year.

While the 2013 target may not be achieved, Bingabing said that the number of hand tractors to be distributed this year would likely surpass the 634 distributed last year.

“While I do not expect a 100-percent achievement for a certain number of machines we set for distribution this year, the number of rice machines that PhilMech coordinated for distribution in this year will greatly help the Philippines modernize its rice sector, and achieve rice self-sufficiency eventually,” he said.

For four-wheel tractors, a total of 87 were distributed as of the end of October out of the targeted 127. Last year, a total of 62 four-wheel tractors were distributed.

For rice transplanters, a total of 23 have been distributed so far as of October out of the 36 targeted for this year. Last year, 22 rice transplanters were distributed.

Manually planting rice usually costs P8,000 each hectare for labor and would require several laborers to complete the task. Using a rice transplanter entails a cost of P3,500 each hectare for fuel and labor expenses, which translates to savings of P4,500 each hectare. Also, a rice transplanter can transplant seedlings in one hectare of land in about eight hours.

For reapers, PhilMech coordinated the distribution of a total of 93 out of the targeted 140 for the year. A total of 106 reapers were distributed in the past year.

Some 60 units of Combine Harvesters were also distributed this year. A total of 212 Combine Harves-ters were distributed under the Rice Mechanization Program since 2011.

A Combine Harvester harvests palay (unmilled rice) and packs them into bags in just one operation, which greatly saves time and effort.

By using a Combine Harvester, Bingabing said that savings of about P4,800 each hectare can be realized by using less labor and reducing post-harvest losses. It also saves time because manually harvesting, threshing and packing newly harvested palay can take up to 28 man-days.

“Those tasks can be performed by a Combine Harvester in just 1.5 man-days,” he said.

Rice centers
PhilMech also coordinated the construction of rice processing centers (RPCs), with 44 now undergoing construction in various parts of the country. A total of 74 RPCs have been awarded to various farmer organizations and recipients, and another 78 are targeted for construction next year.

Bingabing said that the milling recovery of the RPCs is around 65 percent, which is a big improvement over the 60 percent of existing mills around the country.

He added that PhilMech is also developing implements for harvesting and transplanting that can be used in small farms, and can be attached to hand tractors.

The goal of mechanizing palay planting operations, specifically land preparation, planting and harvesting, is to increase output by at around 5 percent.

On the other hand, reducing postharvest losses can potentially add another 5 percent to palay ouput at the farm level.

Mechanizing rice planting also reduces the drudgery in the areas of land preparation, planting and harvesting, and help farmers cope with the effects of climate change.

Bingabing said that more farmers are showing great interest in mechanizing their farms, with the latest survey conducted by PhilMech showing that the mechanization level of farms in the Philippines is 1.23 horsepower per hectare (hp/ha). Rice and corn farms had the highest level of available farm power at 2.31 hp/ha.

“By 2016, we believe that a level of between 2 hp/ha and 3 hp/ha is doable, given the interest of farmers in mechanizing their farms,” Bingabing said.

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