Mechanize farms to attract young farmers

Filipino farmers are now amenable to farm mechanization, despite initial fears of labor displacement.

It is now seen as a way to attract younger farmers in the agriculture sector, according to the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (Philmech).

As many farmers retire because of old age, threat of food production and security in the country arises – the very reason why it is important to attract young farmers into the agriculture business.

The reception of farmers to increased use of farm machinery now is different to their reaction six years ago.

“About five to six years ago, there was some opposition to farm mechanization because many farmers doubted the benefits of mechanization, and there were fears of massive displacement of farm labor,” Philmech executive director Rex Bingabing said during the opening of the 2015 Makina Saka farm machinery show, on December 1, 2015.

He said the farmers are now seeing the benefits of farm mechanization, not only in terms of lowering the cost of production of rice and corn, but also as a means of keeping younger farmers in the workforce.

“There are fears of labor displacement with machines but there is also the big problem of aging farmers retiring with nobody to replace them. So farm mechanization is important to attracting the younger generation to the farming sector,” Bingabing said.

The number of persons involved in agriculture in the country is constantly decreasing every year. Primarily, this is because the new generations of job seekers do not consider farming as a profitable employment.

A study conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority shows that an average farmer earns only about P20,000 per year or equivalent to just less than P2000 per month which is below the poverty line, and that was already years ago.

Furthermore, a 2014 study done by Philmech and the University of the Philippine Los Baños-Agricultural Mechanization Development Program (UPLB-AMDP) showed the average age of the country’s farmers at over 40 years.

Most rice farmers fall within the 40 to 59 age bracket. In Camarines Sur and Iloilo, a high number of farmers are 60 years old and above.

Bingabing said with this level of acceptance from the farmers, rice and corn farms would be able to attain a farm mechanization level of three horsepower per hectare by 2016 from 2.31 hp/ha in 2013 and 0.6 hp/ha in the 1990’s.

Also with increased farm mechanization, Filipino rice farmers could be as competitive as their counterparts in Thailand and Vietnam, he said.

Using a mechanical transplanter and a combine harvester, for example, the cost of palay (unmilled rice) production from P11 per kilogram can be brought down to P7.87 per kg.

This would be lower than Thailand’s P8.73 per kg and only slightly higher than Vietnam’s P6.07 per kg.

The Department of Agriculture can should up to 85 percent of the cost of farm equipment while the qualified farmer organization provides 15 percent of the cost, that’s why farmers can take advantage by organizing as cooperatives.

The department is urging landless farm workers to organize themselves into farm service providers that could enter into service arrangements with landowners to sustain their livelihood.

Philmech, on the other hand, continues to develop prototype models of farm machines appropriate for local conditions in a shorter time span of six to 12 months compared to the usual development period of three to five years.

There are already farm machineries undergoing testing like the fluidized drying system for palay, coconut water pasteurizer, tractor mounted combine harvester, onion seeder, compact village corn mill, brown rice huller, cassava digger, and granulated cassava belt dryer.

(With reports from The Philippine Star / Opinyon, Rosemarie Señora)

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Sunday, 19 January 2020
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