Mechanization transforms Caraga farms

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BUTUAN CITY, July 17 — Agricultural modernization is one of the key interventions of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to support the farmers and make them more competitive in an open rice market.

The DA-Caraga through the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) turned over the 110 units of mechanical rice transplanters to 110 eligible farmer associations and cooperatives from the different provinces in the region with a total worth of ₱30.4 million last July 12 at the DA-Integrated Laboratories Compound, Brgy. Taguibo, Butuan City.

RCEF is a safeguard mechanism of the Rice Liberalization Law wherein ₱10 Billion annual appropriations for the next six years, will be allocated to rice farm machinery and equipment, rice seed development, propagation, and promotion and expanded rice credit.

Just in time for the year’s first cropping season, DA responds to the call of the rice farmers to make their farming more productive and less laborious by granting them with modern farm facilities. Mechanizing rice farms maximizes land and labor productivity thereby increasing the economic returns to rice farmers.

“DA is distributing first the mechanical rice transplanters so that our farmers will now take charge of their planting schedule and not be dependent on seasonal labors,” said DA-Caraga Regional Technical Director (RTD) for Operations Alberto D. Ocampo, Jr.

“Aside from it, we wanted to reduce their workload through the use of the machine. This intervention is for free for eligible farmer groups. Mechanizing our rice farms in the region is our way to reduce their production cost at the same time increase their yield,” he added.

According to the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), the average cost of production of rice in the country is ₱12.00 per kilogram. With this, DA and its partner agencies aim to bring it down to ₱8 per kilogram through agricultural modernization.

“The labor cost during planting season is becoming more expensive it costs us ₱6,000-₱7,000 excluding the pulling of seedlings, aside from the planting contract, laborers also demand free meals,” said Felisa C. Hambala, Chairperson, Bayugan 3 Irrigators Association one of the recipients from Rosario, Agusan del Sur.

“We are very thankful to the government that they give attention to our needs because through their assistance labor cost in our farming will reduce,” added Hambala.

The PhilMech study revealed with the use of the machine, it can give a yield of 4.71MT/ha compared to the 4.24MT/ha using the direct seeding method and 3.90MT/ha for manual transplanting.

“We are encouraging our farmers to make use of the interventions that they receive from the DA.  The recipients should ensure the safety of the equipment while in their custody and optimize its utilization,” said RTD Ocampo.

Necessary operations and management training were also conducted to the beneficiaries to ensure proper and efficient use of the equipment which also includes seedling preparation.

Ultimately, it is the Department’s commitment to transform Caraga farmers to become more productive and competitive through strengthened access and use of efficient mechanized rice farming technologies. (Rhea Abao, DA Caraga/PIA Caraga)

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