Written by Maritha C Manubay


“The world is losing its capability of feeding itself,” said Dr. Ricardo Orge, Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) Director for Climate Change.

Philippines and Japan are two different countries (in terms of people, culture, economy, and geography, among others), but they have one thing in common; they both strive for 100% food self-sufficiency.

According to Dr. Mikio Umeda, Japan’s revered scientist, the independence and power of a country is estimated by food and energy self-sufficiency ratio.

While Japan has knowledge for advanced technology, the country has only 26% grain self-sufficiency. The Philippines, on the other hand, has 85% grain self-sufficiency but still very low compared to developed countries like North America, Europe and Australia in terms of industrial capacity.

Due to the increasing population in the Asian Monsoon Region, which includes Philippines and Japan, there is a need to meet the food demands of its people.

“Countries in the Asian Monsoon Region cannot show the actual model to supply food and feed to its 350 million people,” Umeda said.

To meet the growing demand on food self-sufficiency, agricultural mechanization seems to be the solution.

In the beginning of 20th Century, agricultural mechanization began in the United States. Through it, labor productivity in agriculture has dramatically improved.

Agricultural mechanization is the use of a variety of power sources and enhanced farm tools and equipment. It aims to reduce both human and animal labor, thus enhancing overall productivity at low cost.

As proposed by Umeda in his study on Near Future Agriculture in the Asian Monsoon Region, the use of field robots will increase productivity and profitability.

Conversely, the use of field robots will require energy. However, Dr. Makoto Hoki, Japan’s distinguished energy and environment expert, asserts that the politics and economics of energy are much more uncertain than the technical and engineering aspects.

“Energy is one important input in food production,” Orge said.

Today, the world can still produce for itself fossil energy, but sooner or later it will become scarce. The scarcity in fossil energy can affect rice production.

In line with this, Hoki, in his study on Biomass, Energy and Environment for the Future, recommended the use of bioenergy. The agricultural field itself can offer sources of energy such as rice husk, bagasse, palm wastes, and forest thinning cuts. This biomass is a good alternative energy for heat and power, since the price of fossil fuels is continuously increasing.

Similarly in America, said Dr. Manuel Jose Regalado, PhilRice deputy executive director for research, “bioenergy farming is the solution for the interconnecting problem on environment, agriculture and farming.”

“The challenge, really, is to attain and sustain self-sufficiency without doing harm to the environment,”  Orge said.

The objective of agricultural mechanization is to attain work efficiency for high productivity, which leads to greater yield. Through agricultural mechanization, the Philippines can become self-sufficient in crop production.

While agricultural mechanization seems to be promising, it also leads to doubts for farmers. In the Philippines, according to Dr. Jasper Tallada, PhilRice Senior Research Fellow, a drastic shift from traditional farming practices to agricultural mechanization is not possible, because of the culture and mentality of Filipino farmers.

Small-scale farm owners, for example, do not have enough money to buy farm equipment. But if they do, a number of field workers will decrease since a farm machine can take the place of farm laborers.

In response, Umeda suggested that a second manufacturing industry should absorb farm workers who will be displaced by agricultural mechanization.

Credit facility for small-scale farm owners, on the other hand, will give them the opportunity to mechanize their land.

Food self-sufficiency is a global concern. Perhaps, there is a need to do some re-thinking on how Filipino farmers produce food by highlighting the actions they do to cater food sufficiency.

Now that agricultural mechanization is here, the Philippines is getting near to 100% food self-sufficient. The question now is how to get there.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute