Friday, February 5, 2016

DA-established rice processing facility gives Masbate farmers’ group ample income
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Feb. 4 (PNA) -– The rice processing facility established by the Department of Agriculture (DA) for hundreds of farmers in Masbate has been proving its worth in enhancing the earning capability of its recipients.

“When the DA went to our far-flung town of Milagros almost two years ago, it gave us not only Php1million in capital, but also a Php6-million Rice Processing Center (RPC) which has been a blessing to our community,” Vilma Fontellar, the chairperson of the municipality’s Narangasan Multipurpose Cooperative (NMPC), on Thursday here said in local dialect.

Milagros is a second-class coastal and lowland municipality of the island- province of Masbate whose people rely mainly on fishing and farming for their living.

The RPC, with a floor area of 300 square meters, is a permanent building equipped with a multi-pass rice mill and mechanical dryer with biomass furnace and serving as a warehouse where farmers can store their palay, especially during rainy season.

NMPC, a 120-strong cooperative of farmers, is among the groups of rice farmers in the region helping the government in its rice-self sufficiency efforts under the DA’s Agri-Pinoy Program on Rice that provides new technologies, high breed seeds and farm mechanization equipment.

DA Regional Executive Director Abelardo Bragas turned over the RPC to the cooperative in June 2014 with its basic components such as multi-pass rice mill with one-ton-per-hour capacity worth Php1.2 million, 300-square-meter warehouse worth Php3.3 million and administrative/capacity building worth Php500,000 as well as Php1 million in operating capital.

Also included as RPC tools are a one-toner weighing scale and a unit of portable moisture meter; and three sets of re-circulating grain dryer with biomass furnace carrying a holding capacity of six tons of wet palay per set.

The Milagros municipal government under its mayor, Natividad Isabel Magbalon, provided a Php1-million counterpart to the whole project.

Through this facility and seed money, the group was made beneficiary of the agriculture intervention program in line with the Aquino administration’s Food Staples Self-Sufficiency Program that has something to do with the rice self-sufficiency target under the implementation of medium-term agricultural sector mechanization and modernization program.

“Today, we are no longer dependent on middlemen in the marketing of our harvest and those availing of the services of our RPC can already command better price for their palay produced because it is dried and milled first before marketing preventing post-harvest losses and improving milling recovery,” Fontellar said.

The NMPC head was here at the DA regional office to deliver the good news to Bragas. She said that since the start of the RPC’s operation, which also provided additional employment to the members who are hired as procurement officers, millers and utility personnel, the cooperative has started buying palay from farmers in neighboring municipalities. “We also sell rice to the neighborhood and hometown consumers at prices lower that the commercial varieties being offered by local retailers,” she said. In the cooperative’s milling services, it charges a lower amount of Php1.20 to members while non-members are charged Php1.40 per kilo of palay milled, which is still lower by 10 centavos compared to the amount being collected by commercial millers in the locality.

The amount in excess of Php1.00 per kilo of palay milled goes to the cooperative’s capital build-up while the rest to operational expenses, the biggest bulk going to palay procurement amounting last year to a total of Php777,813 for 899 bags.

In coming to the DA regional office, Fontellar is armed with an NMPC financial report prepared by its bookkeeper, saying that for the year 2015, the cooperative earned a net income of Php311,075 from milling 8,313 bags or 384,644 kilos of palay alone.

Other expenses for the operation of the RPC are for the diesel fuel of the rice mill and the salary of the four operators, which is equivalent to 35 percent of the gross annual income.

The cooperative also generated income from the Php30,000 monthly rental of one of the RPC warehouses by the provincial office of the National Food Authority (NFA) that also avails of the facility’s milling services.

Bragas explained that RPCs are established by the DA in cooperation with Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) to lessen dependence of farmers on rice millers and traders and dramatically reduce post-harvest losses.

These are facilities developed by the PHilMech and can be availed of by farmers associations in Bicol under the Rice Mechanization Program of the DA, which aims to optimize the use of modern technologies in farming and offers machinery and equipment that lessen the drudgery of field works, lower operational cost and increase farmer’s yield and income.

Another recipient of RPC in Bicol is the Saradit na Kristiyanong Komunidad (SKK) Organic Farmers Association of Libmanan, Camarines Sur which got the facility also in 2014 worth Php16 million.

It is equipped, among others, with a multi-pass rice mill with 1.2 ton-per-hour output capacity and a minimum of 65-percent milling recovery and a 550- square-meter warehouse with complete drainage, rat proofing and a three-phase line electrical system, including transformers.

Bragas said the facility benefits farmers in the 11 municipalities in the 2nd district of Camarines Sur covering 80 farmers’ organizations in the area.

Owing to the bulk of its operation, the SKK was granted last year by DA with another 360-square-meter warehouse, additional flat bed dryer with agitator and multipurpose drying pavement, one unit combine rice harvester, a four-wheel drive mini tractor and mechanical transplanter.

Both these multi-million facilities that farmers in Masbate and Camarines Sur now enjoy serve as a big gift representing the commitment of the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III to help the agricultural sector grow through the DA, Bragas said.

These groups of farmers have been instrumental to Bicol’s attaining of regional rice self-sufficiency, he added. (PNA) PGL/FGS/DOC/CBD