Thirty rice-based Farmer's Cooperatives and Associations (FCAs) in Western Visayas received the first batch of farm machinery worth P48 million under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) on Aug. 3 to 8.
According to Engr. Romar Areno, Visayas Cluster Head of the Department of Agriculture (DA)- Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), 10 units of the precision seeder, and 20 units of riding-type transplanter amounting to P1.6 million each were already distributed.
One FCA in Aklan received one unit precision seeder, Capiz - 2, and Iloilo -7. Meanwhile, PhilMech had turned over two units of riding-type transplanter to farmers' groups in Aklan, Antique with two units; Capiz,1; Iloilo, 7; and Negros Occidental, 8.
"These machines are used for planting rice. The precision seeder can plant pre-germinated seeds on a dry land preparation while the riding-type transplanter can plant young rice seedlings on a wetland preparation. Both can plant in a precise row spacing and distance between hill are adjustable depending on the desired space between 11 to 21 centimeters," explained Areno.
The RCEF farm mechanization component seeks to benefit 38 FCAs from the 37 municipalities in Western Visayas under the 2019 budget.
To avail of the interventions, FCAs applied for the DA accreditation. Members of the eligible association should have at least 50 hectares of rice areas to qualify.
Also, the association must have a minimum rice area of 100 hectares within the peripheral barangays from the proposed location of the agricultural machinery and postharvest facilities.
"It is also important that FCAs can operate the machinery and equipment we provide," said Areno citing that the operators underwent hands-on training before the turnover of the equipment.
As a counterpart, the FCAs had provided shed for the machinery and are required to follow the suggested service fee.
To ensure the full utilization and sustainability of the intervention, PhilMech requires FCAs to handle the project using an integrated and systems approach of farm machinery operation and management.
The RCEF Mechanization Component seeks to increase farmers' productivity through efficient and cost-reducing rice mechanization interventions to eligible farmers groups.
Western Visayas has a P193.78 million allocation out of the P2 billion national budget for the first tranche implementation of the RCEF farm mechanization program.
Areno said that other machinery and equipment such as the four-wheel-drive tractor, hand tractor, floating tiller and combine harvester are yet to be turned over within the year.
On the other hand, PhilMech has ongoing procurement for the remaining P3 billion national budget for RCEF mechanization support.
Aside from mechanization, the rice fund also aims to support the local rice farmers through the provision of quality seeds, access to credit, and rice extension service which are implemented by Philippine Rice Research Institute, Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines, and the Agricultural Training Institute and TESDA, respectively, according to DA Regional Executive Director Remelyn Recoter.
"All these interventions gear toward boosting the local production of rice and improving the competitiveness of rice farmers as the quantitative restrictions on rice importation was lifted in 2019 with the passage of RA 11203 also known as the Rice Tariffication Law," she added.Sheila Mae Toreno/DA-RAFIS 6