Wednesday, February 24, 2016

DA’s Rice Processing Center projects increase farm productivity, farmers’ income in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Feb. 23 (PNA) -– Bicol farmers are now realizing the benefits of the multi-million-peso Rice Processing Center (RPC) and farming modernization projects earlier awarded to them by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The 400-strong San Antonio Farmers Irrigators Multipurpose Cooperative (SAFIMCO) in Buhi, Camarines Sur got from the DA regional office based here in June 2014 its RPC worth Php6 million.

Its basic components are a one-ton-per-hour multi-pass rice mill worth Php1.2 million; 300-square-meter warehouse costing Php3.3 million; a Php.5-million administrative building; and Php1 million operating capital.

Ahead of the RPC, the same cooperative also received from the DA solar dryers, a tractor with trailer, flatbed dryer, palay shed and a warehouse as part of the agency’s farm modernization undertakings.

RPCs are established 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 which 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 farmers' yield and income.

With these grants, SAFIMCO members were able to collectively increase rice production in the 266 hectares of farms they cultivate as gleaned from the operations of its RPC in 2015, which saw a total procurement of over Php2.2-million worth of milled rice which the cooperative has sold to consumers and traders in neighboring markets.

Loreto Ceneta, the cooperative’s chairman, on Tuesday recalled that they started in 1992 with a meager capital of only Php30,000 used in the palay procurement business of the organization.

“Now, after all those assistance from the DA, we already have fixed assets amounting to some Php33 million while our individual members have also increased by more than double their farm income using the RPC facilities and farming modernization facilities provided,” Ceneta said.

Abelardo Bragas, the DA regional executive director, said the SAFIMCO is among the groups of rice farmers in Bicol helping the government in its rice self sufficiency efforts under the agriculture department’s Agri-Pinoy Program on Rice that provides new technologies, hi-bred seeds and farm mechanization equipment.

Another is the Narangasan Multipurpose Cooperative (NMPC) of Milagros, a second-class coastal and lowland municipality of the island-province of Masbate, whose people rely mainly on farming and fishing for their livelihood.

The NMPC, a 120-strong cooperative of farmers, received its RPC project of the same cost also in 2014 and through this facility and seed money, the group was made beneficiary of agriculture intervention programs in line with the Aquino administration’s Food Staples Self-Sufficiency Program that has something to do with the rice self-sufficiency target.

Today, the group is no longer dependent on middlemen in the marketing of their harvest and those availing of the services of its RPC can already command better price for their palay produced because it is dried and milled first before being brought to the market, preventing post-harvest losses and improving milling recovery, Bragas said.

The NMPC also sells rice to the neighborhood and hometown consumers at prices lower that the commercial varieties being offered by local retailers and for the year 2015, it earned a net income of Php311,075 from milling 8,313 bags or 384,644 kilos of palay alone, the DA regional chief said, citing recent reports received.

One more 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 2nd and 3rd districts of Camarines Sur covering 80 farmers’ organizations.

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.

All these multi-million-peso 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) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD