Gov’t scrambles for ways to mitigate effect of TRAIN on farming

February 02, 2018

Gov’t scrambles for ways to mitigate effect of TRAIN on farming

Published February 2, 2018, 10:00 PM
By Madelaine B. Miraflor

Manila Bulletin

In ways more than one, Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law is really bound to have an effect on rice production in the country, a factor that pushes certain government agencies to scramble for ways how to mitigate the reform’s impact, especially on prices of commodities.

Right now, Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is doing the same. To be exact, it is now rushing to make available certain technologies and strategies to ease the effect of higher fuel cost on rice farming.

To be exact, TRAIN mandates a P2.50 per liter excise tax for diesel and a duty of P7 per liter for gasoline from the current P2.35 per liter starting this year.

Critics are worried that with the increase of excise tax in fuel, the prices of services and goods like rice will also get more expensive.

The National Food Authority (NFA) was quick to react to this, saying that the price of rice will remain stable.

NFA Administrator Jason Aquino then said that the state-run grains agency will continue to sell rice at the prescribed price of P27 per kilogram (/kg) for the regular-milled variety and P32/kg for the well-milled variety.

However, NFA discounted the changes that the tax reform could have on rice production, especially since farmers need fuel to run their farm machineries.

Even sans the tax reform, the agency admitted that it’s already finding it hard to procure rice from local farmers due to its low buying price.

This could get worse if the farmer’s cost of production would continue to increase.

But PhilRice has a solution. It said that there are some technologies that could help farmers maximize their income despite the skyrocketing price of petroleum and fuel brought about by TRAIN Law.

Arnold S. Juliano, head of the PhilRice Rice Engineering and Mechanization Division (REMD), recommends the use of renewable energies for rice production instead of machineries that run through gas.

“Instead of using diesel or gasoline fuel, farmers can now opt for biom ass or rice hull, which can be converted into gas using the Water Pump Gasifier,” Juliano said.

Water Pump Gasifier is a type of rice hull gasifier engine-pump system (RHGEPS) that is compact, light-weight, mobile, and affordable for small farmers.

Juliano said this technology is already in the final stage of pilot testing.

A farmer in Mindoro, according to him, has used this Water-Pump Gasifier for one cropping season and saw the benefits for himself. PhilRice claims this farmer was able to reduce his irrigation cost from R15,000 to R2,000.

Juliano elaborated that the Water Pump Gasifier can continuously operate for two hours using only half sack or 17 kilograms of rice hull.

“Fuel is only necessary for the start-up of the machine during its first 10 minutes of operation. This can give farmers 30 percent to 40 percent savings in their irrigation costs. This amount of savings can make up for the R4 per liter average increase in the cost of fuel due to the implementation of TRAIN Law,” he further said.

Moreover, Juliano said the gasifier is also environment-friendly, as it reduces the use of fossil fuels through biomass.

“The rice hull used for gasifier, when carbonized, can still be used for seed bed and other applications, promoting zero-waste usage for farmers,” the researcher noted.

“We are working on extending the operation hours of the gasifier from 2 hours to 8 hours due to the requests of the farmers who used it for pilot testing, so that they can do more activities while the machine is operating,” he further said.

Aside from the gasifier, Juliano also emphasized the edge of using mechanical transplanter over the manual method.

Tags: National Food Authority, NFA, Philippine Rice Research Institute, rice farming, rice production, Tax reform, TRAIN