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The mechanization of rice farms will result in the creation of more jobs, according to an engineer from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

“Most farmers are hesitant to accept rice mechanization because they think this will displace them from work. But displaced workers in the farm can become farm machine operators, fabricators or technicians,” said Eden Gagelonia, PhilRice engineer and head of the agency’s Rice Engineering and Mechanization Division.

She said the scenario where more jobs will be created from rice mechanization cannot be seen yet, because most farm machineries in the country are still imported.

Gagelonia said that once the adoption of farm machineries increases, companies that will manufacture agricultural equipment will increase in number and be ready to provide employment to people in the rural areas.

The Philippines is behind other countries like Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and China when it comes to farm mechanization. However, with the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) mechanization program, various types of farm equipment, (from land preparation to milling) are being introduced to farmers.

Gagelonia said that the DA`s Rice Mechanization program will be implemented until 2016.

Under that program, a farmers’ organization like cooperatives or irrigators associations (IAs) can take part in a program to help them acquire farm machineries with financial support from the government. Specifically, qualified farmers’ cooperatives and IAs shoulder only 15% of the cost of a farm machinery, while the government shoulders 85 percent.

The program covers farm machines such as hand tractors, four-wheel tractors, seeders, transplanters, combine harvesters, reapers, threshers, seed cleaners, flatbed dryers and rice mills, among others, Gagelonia said.

Four PhilRice scientists and Gagelonia are handling projects for the development of various farm machines, an activity funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

Dr. Manuel Jose Regalado is leading the development of combined conduction and far-infrared radiation paddy dryer; Dr. Caesar Joventino Tado is the project leader for the development and improvement of a 1.3 Rice Combine Harvester; Arnold Juliano heads the development of a local 6-row riding type transplanter; and Gagelonia is the project leader for the development of a local model of an 8-row riding type precision seeder.

“These four projects are related to the goal of attaining and sustaining rice-self sufficiency,” Gagelonia said.

Projects will be implemented from July 2013 until December 2015.

Three major activities in rice farming need to be mechanized to improve productivity as well as reduce costs, according to her. These are crop establishment, harvesting and threshing, and drying.

The Korean Project on International Agriculture (KOPIA) Center in the Philippines, hosted by PhilRice, is also helping in the country’s farm mechanization efforts by introducing a riding-type seeder with field capacity of four hectares per day and a seeding rate of 20 kilograms per hectare.

“With this type of seeder, seeding rate is reduced by almost 50 percent. Development of a local model of this machine for use in seed multiplication and integration into the rice production system provides an appropriate and efficient new technology for modernizing Philippine agriculture,” Gagelonia said.

The PhilRice engineer added that although the country is experiencing a relatively high population growth, available labor for farming has been decreasing over the years. From 12.03 million persons employed in the agriculture in the agriculture sector in 2008, this went down to 11.96 million persons in 2010, based on 2010 data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics.

A major factor contributing to the decline in farm laborers is the younger generation, specifically those in the rural areas, shun farming as a profession because of the drudgery of some farm work.

“With mechanization, drudgery in the farm will be eased out and this will encourage younger generations to work in the farm.  Also, employment opportunities shall be created for machinery manufacturing, repair and maintenance and agro-processing,” Gagelonia said.

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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