To keep pace with rice-exporting countries like Thailand and Vietnam, the Philippines must raise the rate of mechanization in its farms to .8 horsepower per hectare from the current .57 hp/ha, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Tuesday said the DA has allotted P6 billion to increase the use of machinery and other farm equipment in Philippine farms.
“Our target in the medium term is to increase the current farm mechanization level at 0.57 horsepower per hectare (hp/ha) to 0.8 hp/ha,” he said.
The amount is used to buy various farm production and post-harvest machinery and equipment that the DA provides to qualified irrigators’ associations, farmers’ groups and local government units. The DA shoulders up to 85 percent of the equipment cost, while the remaining 15 percent serves as the equity or local counterpart of the beneficiaries.
“We want to provide the environment that would encourage the private sector to invest in the country’s farm machinery industry. We plan to reach a farm mechanization level of 0.8 hp/ha, similar to that of Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia,” said Undersecretary Joel Rudinas.
Thailand and Vietnam are both rice-exporting countries. The Philippines, which imports rice to feed its growing population, eyes to join their club by 2014.
Rudinas said other developed countries like Japan and South Korea are already highly mechanized, at 7 hp/ha and 4 hp/ha, respectively.
This year, with a P2.6-billion budget, the DA targets to provide IAs, other farmers’ groups, LGUs with more than 7,000 units of various farm machinery and equipment.
Agriculture officials said Filipino farmers are reluctant to use machineries for fear that it would displace laborers. Officials also noted that Filipino farmers do not have the capital to invest in harvest and post-harvest equipment.
Filipino farmers, DA said, are one of the least mechanized in Southeast Asia. Officials said a high level of mechanization in agriculture leads to greater yield and better income for farmers.
Assistant Secretary Dante Delima said, “We do not intend to displace any farm labor. Instead, we aim to increase farm labor productivity.
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