THE Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) said it has distributed 10,030 units of farm machinery to qualified cooperatives and associations as of the end of April, in line with the increase in mechanization contemplated by the Rice Tariffication Law. 

PhilMech Director Baldwin G. Jallorina said in a virtual briefing Friday that the agency distributed an additional 2,520 units beyond the 7,510 that had been distributed at the end of February. 

Qualified farmers are entitled to mechanization assistance under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), created under Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, which was signed on Feb. 14, 2019. 

Since 2019, PhilMech said farm machinery distributed includes 2,398 four-wheel tractors; 2,896 hand tractors; 714 floating tillers; 111 precision seeders; 610 walk-behind transplanters; 348 riding type transplanters; 1,275 reapers; 1,562 combine harvesters; 45 mobile rice mills; and 71 axial flow threshers. 

“Averaging about 1,260 units of farm machinery distributed in March and April was no easy task as we had to deal with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) restrictions,” Mr. Jallorina said.  

Mr. Jallorina said the distribution process had been delayed due to the quarantine. 

Relative to target, “we will be delayed by a bit due to the COVID-19 pandemic that caused lockdowns in some areas. I hope we catch up before the end of the month,” Mr. Jallorina said. 

The Rice Tariffication Law allocates P10 billion a year from rice import tariffs to the RCEF until 2024 to help rice farmers better compete with imported rice. 

Some P5 billion is meant to fund farm mechanization; P3 billion for seed; P1 billion for training; and P1 billion for credit support.  

“Without the Rice Tariffication Law, there would be no program to distribute at no cost various machinery to rice farmers. We also make sure that the farmers cooperatives are trained and capable of operating the equipment given to them,” Mr. Jallorina said. – Revin Mikhael D. Ochave