(PAGASA 24-HOUR PUBLIC WEATHER FORECAST as of Monday, 26 February 2024) Easterlies affecting the eastern section of the country. Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur will experience Partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms due to Easterlies / Localized Thunderstorms. Possible flash floods or landslides during severe thunderstorms. Light to Moderate winds coming from East to Northeast will prevail with Slight to Moderate seas (0.6 to 2.5 meters).

Tuesday, 18 July 2023

Mechanization shapes high-yielding farmers in Caraga

By Jennifer P. Gaitano

BUTUAN CITY – In time with the visit of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in Caraga region on July 12, 2023, the farmer organizations from the different municipalities in the region received various government assistance including farm machineries under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (Rice Fund) program of the Department of Agriculture (DA), through the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech).

DA Caraga headed by regional director Ricardo Oñate, emphasized that when it comes to provision of various interventions for the farmer sector, the Agency coordinates with other government agencies to include the Agusan Institute of Technology (ATI) for the conduct of the necessary trainings, Philippine Rice (PhilRice) Agusan for the seeds distribution, and PhilMech for the mechanization.

On the same day, the Kadiwa ng Pangulo at the Agusan del Norte Provincial Capitol Covered Court in Butuan City was participated by some 754 farmer beneficiaries in Butuan City who received the fertilizer discount vouchers with a total cost of P3,920,000 under the Rice Program. Moreover, 25 farmer beneficiaries of Lingayao-Kahayagan Cassava Farmers Association from Barangay Lingayao, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte received a unit of hauling truck and another unit of four-wheel drive farm tractor under the Corn Program. Further, 33 farmer beneficiaries of Buenas Agong-ong Active Farmers Association, Incorporated from Barangay Agong-ong, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte received the P6 million facility that will house some 300 swine or pigs, equipped with shower room, bodega, fencing, and biogas, including the P2.4 million stocks for the 300 piglets, and P1.6 million feeds/drugs and biologics under the Livestock Program. 

Also, a unit of rice combine harvester was given to each of the nine identified farmer organizations in Butuan City and Agusan del Norte, with a total amount of P16,317,000. 

These farmer organizations are as follows: Caduging-Aupagan Salvacion Irrigators Association (CASIA), Incorporated with 166 members; Baobaoan Farmer Association with 204 members; Bobon Farmers Association with 271 members; Rizalist in Maguinda Irrigators’ Association, Incorporated with 76 members; Farmers of Tagabaca-Aupagan (FATAGIA) Irrigators’ Association, Incorporated with 115 members; Abante E.G. Montilla Ambacon Rice Cluster Farmers Association, Incorporated with 59 members; San Roque Sunlight Farmers Association with 75 members; Cacea Guihao-an Irrigators’ Association, Incorporated with 127 members; and Municipal Local Government Unit of Remedios T. Romualdez with 560 members.

Roberto Calapre, chairperson of Lingayao Kahayagan Cassava Farmers Association from Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte, expressed his optimism that with the machineries turned-over by DA Caraga will help them produce more, as well as earn more.

“On behalf of our organization, I am thankful to our DA Secretary and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., for ensuring that we get the assistance we need to improve our yield. Through the efforts of DA Caraga regional director Ricardo Oñate, for the various assistance intended for the farmers in the region,” he said.

Calapre also called on his fellow farmers to ask help from DA should they need assistance and interventions. “Being a member of a farmer organization is beneficial as this will make our requests to government agencies easier and more convenient. We also appreciate the constant support of our local government unit and the provincial offices of DA and other concerned agencies. I believe that the government will never fail to extend the needed assistance for the farmer sector,” he said.

Advantage of post-harvest management technologies to the farmers

The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) generates, extends, and commercializes appropriate post-production technologies and practices to reduce losses, improve food and feed quality, ensure food safety, and maximize the benefits that accrue to the various stakeholders. It mechanizes from farm to fork through the execution of research and the effective extension and application of postproduction and agricultural mechanization technologies.

Post-harvest management technologies can contribute to food security mainly through the reduction of losses and waste. They can reduce post-harvest handling loss to increase the amount of food for farmers and consumers, both rural and urban. Reducing losses this way can lower food prices and improve access to food.

On this aspect, Calapre shared that the interventions of DA-PhilMech to the farmer organizations have greatly helped them in making their pre and post-harvest easier and lessen labor cost.

“Aside from the assistance that we get from the government agencies like DA and other agencies involved in terms of seedlings, fertilizers and other inputs, we are also given the appropriate farm machineries and equipment which we could use to make our work easier and increase our production, giving us the chance to increase our profit,” underscored Calapre.

Jingle Paloma, regional focal person for PhilMech Caraga, bared that as of reporting time, there are 218 farmer cooperatives and associations in the region, to wit; Agusan del Norte – 48, Agusan del Sur – 85, and Surigao del Sur – 85. 

“The PhilMech started the procurement of the machineries and equipment in the year 2019 and in August 2020 commenced the implementation and distribution of machineries to the farmer beneficiaries,” said Paloma.

The Pigdaulan Farmers Association, Incorporated headed by Fermin Maur, association president, acknowledged the efforts of the government in providing technology innovation for the farmers.

“We would like to express our heartfelt thanks and gratitude in giving us the farm machineries. It is really a great help and support to our rice farmer members in our place. We hope and pray that there will be more facilities from your department just to reach the dream of all the farmers especially for the new rice farming technology,” shared Maur.

“Thank you for the farm machineries such as the combine harvester, four-wheel tractor, hand tractor and floating tiller that you donated to us. These will help us a lot to make our farm activities easier and allow us to give us quality service to our valued customers,” said Jennifer Miranda, chairperson of Palasao Agriculture Cooperative. 

The creation of RCEF

It can be recalled that Republic Act 11203 has created the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (Rice Fund) to improve the competitiveness of rice farmers and increase their income amidst liberalization of the Philippine rice trade policy including, among other provisions, the lifting of quantitative restriction on rice import and replacing it with tariff. 

The Rice Fund establishes the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program (RCEP) which aims to complement and supplement the existing Department of Agriculture – National Rice Program (DA-NRP). 

The RCEP has four key components: 1) rice farm mechanization; 2) inbred rice seed development, propagation, and promotion; 3) expanded rice credit assistance; and 4) rice extension services. The implementation of these components shall be integrated and consistent with the existing DA interventions. 

Further, Section 13.d allocates 10% of the Rice Fund on extension services as follows: 10% each for PhilRice, Philippine Center for Postharvest and Mechanization (PHilMech), and Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), and 70% for Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), for teaching skills on rice crop production, modern rice farming techniques, seed production, farm mechanization, and knowledge/technology transfer through farm schools nationwide. (JPG/PIA-Caraga)