THE Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) said it is hoping for an extension of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF)-Mechanization Program ahead of the final P10 billion annual funding tranche next year.

In a news conference, PHilMech Executive Director Dionisio G. Alvindia said the estimated P30 billion worth of machinery for distribution between 2019 and 2024 will be adequate to service only 14% of the 2.7 million hectares planted to rice.

Kung ako ang tatanungin, ’yung 14% na intervention, hindi pa iyan halos magkakaroon ng impact,” (If you were to ask me, the 14% worth of interventions will have little impact) Mr. Alvindia said.

“So, in my honest opinion, the RCEF-Mechanization Program should be extended so more farmers can get their own farm machinery,” he added.

Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law authorizes RCEF funding of P10 billion for six years. The appropriations are funded by rice import tariffs.

PHilMech gets a P5-billion annual allocation and is tasked with distributing machinery to qualified rice farmers.

Mr. Alvindia said PhilMech has distributed 25,000 units of farm machinery to at least 8,000 farmer cooperatives and associations.

“The next step is to provide qualified farm cooperatives and associations and local government units (LGUs) with rice processing systems so they can directly market their milled rice to farmers,” he added.

Mr. Alvindia said PhilMech has started building an Agricultural Mechanization Design and Prototyping Center in Nueva Ecija.

The center is the result of collaboration with the Korea International Cooperation Agency, Korea Institute for Development Strategy, and the Korea Agricultural Machinery Industry Cooperative.

The center fabricates farm machinery parts in partnership with Philippine manufacturers trained by South Korean engineers.

It is expected to start operations by late 2023.

The center’s design and prototyping equipment and tooling cost an estimated $3.6 million. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera