The Philippines has to fast track the implementation of its farm mechanization program amid increasing occurrence of typhoons that hit the country over the last two years, the Asian Rice Foundation said on Thursday.
“The need to mechanize our farms is undeniably strong,” ARF Chairman Dr. Santiago Obien said, stressing the need to prevent massive losses in the agriculture sector caused by the unusual weather patterns.
Obien, citing the devastation caused by Typhoon Santi in Nueva Ecija and Isabela, said that the increased use of farm machineries would allow farmers to harvest their crops faster and cheaper.
“After Typhoon Santi, the rice fields were flattened in these provinces, and no laborers would like to harvest. This is when the combined harvesters were used,” he said.
In Occidental Mindoro, the Department of Agriculture (DA) also deployed combined harvesters and dryers to hasten harvesting of palay (unmilled rice) and avoid the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda.
The province, a major rice supplier for Metro Manila, is one of the areas of concern since it was situated directly along the path of the typhoon. But with the use of farm machineries, palay farmers were able to make the harvesting process faster and more efficient.
Mechanization is second among the five major programs under the DA’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program.
Obien, however, said that promoting the use of farm machinery is still a sensitive topic, since there is an apparent excess of labor supply in farming communities while wages remain low.
“On the one hand, timeliness of operations and cost considerations make farm mechanization economical, especially in the context of rising total production. In addition, it can reduce labor cost, which typically accounts for 45 percent of the total production cost,” he said.
The DA-Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) earlier said that Philippine farms are among the least mechanized in Southeast Asia, using only 1.23 horsepower per hectare.
“The use of machines is definitely the better option now like in the case of land preparation. We have to determine how we can both achieve higher farm mechanization rate while continue to provide jobs for displaced farm workers,” Obien said.
On Friday, various stakeholders from the government, private sector and farmers organization will meet for this year’s Annual Rice Forum, which aims to gather information and ideas that will be used to form the National Agricultural Mechanization Roadmap (NAMR).
The NAMR aims to intensify and synchronize national programs for in-country machinery development, which could provide more and better jobs to farming areas and strengthen the country’s production capabilities.
The rice forum, which supports the recently passed Agricultural and Fisheries Mechanization Law and the National Year of Rice 2013 Program, will highlight 11science papers on the use of machinery in agriculture.