By Carmencita A. Carillo
DAVAO CITY — Members of the Mindanao Agricultural Machinery Industry Association (MAMIA) called on the private sector and the government to provide more support to mechanization to improve agricultural production and incomes.
“There is a deficiency in the distribution of agricultural equipment throughout the country but the private sector and the government can work together to address that,” MAMIA President Pedro D. Lim said during the Manufacturers’ Forum for Agricultural Machinery and Equipment Manufacturers and Distributors in Mindanao held here on Nov. 28-29.
The forum was intended to encourage manufacturers from Mindanao to innovate and mass-produce farm equipment and parts customized for local needs, in support of the Department of Agriculture’s mechanization program.
Mr. Lim said linking local fabricators and farmers would hasten both the development and procurement processes.
One area where government can support the private sector is in the provision of training he said.
Lorna C. Dominado, who owns a welding shop and machine service in Mlang, Cotabato, said there are few trained welders who can be tapped for the fabrication of machinery.
In her shop — which has been fabricating tractor-like equipment known as bao-bao and kuliglig, corn shellers, and rice threshers for 10 years — Ms. Dominado said her six welders learned from experience and never had professional training.
Ms. Dominado added that another challenge is small-scale farmers not having the financial capability to invest in equipment while small manufacturers like her can only accept orders on a cash basis.
“Mechanization is really crucial in making our farmers and the agriculture sector more competitive in view of the regional economic integration under the ASEAN Economic Community,” said Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, in her keynote speech at the event.
Ms. Villar noted that the rice tariffication bill, which is pending bicameral approval, includes a budget for mechanization.
Under the bill, half of the P10-billion Rice Fund will be allocated to the Philippine Center for Post Harvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) to provide farmer groups with machineries
Ms. Villar also said that a review is ongoing for the implementation of the various laws promoting agriculture and fisheries modernization — Republic Acts 8435 and of 10601 (the Agriculture and Fisheries Mechanization Law or AFMech) — to ensure they benefit the intended parties.
AFMech calls for the allocation of at least P20 billion a year for agriculture modernization-related programs and projects.
“As far as mechanization, we are really fast-tracking everything so we don’t fall behind our neighboring countries in Asia,” the senator said.