From plows to tractors, rice farms to be mechanized under tariffs law

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 19 2019 11:24 PM

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MANILA - Rice farmers will benefit from the Rice Tariffication Act by getting modern mechanized equipment that is expected to improve farm yields, an agency attached to the Department of Agriculture said on Wednesday. 

The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization, or Philmech, said it has already identified an initial 1,200 major rice-producing municipalities in the Philippines that will receive farm machinery once funds from rice tariffs are collected. 

Philmech is set to get P30 billion from 2019 to 2024 for distribution of mechanized farming equipment such as tractors, transplanters, harvesters, threshers, mechanical dryers and other machinery.

"Depende sa needs noong mga farmers associations or organzations at ito yung basehan ng pagbibigay o pagdi-distribute ng mga machinery," said Dr. Rod Estigoy, chief science research specialist of Philmech.    

Tariffs collected from imported rice are supposed to be channeled to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund to help local farmers compete with cheaper imports. 

Local farmers had opposed the rice tariffs law, fearing it would flood the market with cheaper rice from abroad, and kill the local rice industry. 

Estigoy noted that a kilo of palay, or unmilled rice, costs just P6 per kilo in Vietnam, and P8 in Thailand. 

While a kilo of palay in the Philippines currently costs around P12 per kilo, farm mechanization is expected to reduce this to at least P10 per kilo, Estigoy said. 

He added that modern equipment will also minimize postharvest losses from inefficient drying and milling methods. 

The Philmech official added that the machinery will be given for free to farmers' associations, who will also be asked to maintain them. 

Estigoy however, also said introducing modern farm equipment faced challenges in the Philippines because the country's small landholdings needed to be "consolidated" to allow them to benefit from the efficiency of mechanization.