DA to release P3-B farm tools

Published June 14, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

The second batch of farm machinery funded under the Rice Tariffication Law’s (RTL) Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) — which has a total cost of P3 billion — is out in two months, the government assured. This is despite the lockdowns and quarantines imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) Executive Director Dr. Baldwin Jallorina Jr.

Such distribution, he said, will be about 50 percent bigger than the first batch of machinery that was bought under RCEF.

To recall, one of the crucial components of RTL, which allowed unlimited rice importation in the country, is to make Filipino rice farmers competitive by giving them access to free seeds and modern farm equipment to be funded by the so-called RCEF.

RCEF is the collection of tariffs from rice imports. It is supposed to be injected with P10 billion annually from 2019 to 2024.

Of the P10 billion, P5 billion is allotted to mechanization, but due to bureaucratic bottlenecks, it took PhilMech more than a year to procure farm equipment and distribute it.

Over the weekend, Jallorina said the next batch of farm machines for bidding will be for another 1,068 farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCA).

This is larger compared to the P2-billion worth of machines set to be distributed to 624 FCAs as part of the first batch of distribution.

PHilMech has already scheduled the start of the bidding process for the second batch of machines costing P3 billion at the latter part of this month, while the distribution under the first batch is scheduled in the next few weeks.

PhilMech Facility Management and Field Operations Division chief Joel Dator said they continue to validate FCAs in order to provide them with additional machines if needed.

The FCAs who did not qualify in 2019 can apply for 2020 as long as requirements set by PHilMech are met, he said.

RCEF covers 957 municipalities in the country and for rice farmers to benefit from the program, they should be part of the DA’s outdated Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA).

As for RCEF’s mechanization program alone, only rice farmers who are members of an FCA can benefit from it.

In the selection of beneficiaries, PhilMech has adopted the farm clustering and consolidation strategy to “achieve economies of scale that will pave the way to cost-efficient operations, higher crop productivity and bigger farmers’ incomes,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.
PhilMech has estimated farm mechanization can lower the cost of producing palay (unmilled rice) by P1 to P2 per kilo.

At present, the cost of producing a kilo of palay in the Philippines is P12.72 per kilo while it is P6.62 in Vietnam and P8.86 in Thailand, making imported rice cheaper than locally produced palay.

A total of 34,000 information, education and communication (IEC) materials have already been produced and distributed by PhilMech to farmers and stakeholders nationwide over the past year as part of this program.

“These IECs are also critical in helping the officers and members of the targeted FCAs appreciate the benefits of mechanization and for them to rapidly adapt to farm mechanization,” PhilMech Applied Communication Division Chief Aldrin Badua.