RICE FARMERS and dependents who completed training programs offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) have totaled 25,904 to date, TESDA said.

The various training programs offered in field schools are authorized by Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, the goals of which include upgrading rice-planting know-how among farmers to make the industry more competitive.

TESDA said in a statement that some of the skills taught include production of rice from inbred seed, seed certification, farm mechanization, rice machinery operations, and drying and milling plant servicing.

“A number of the graduates also received training in carpentry, electrical installation and maintenance, welding and masonry which can help them in attending to their warehouses or their farm machinery especially when minor repair work is needed,” TESDA said.

Farmer training is funded by the P10-billion annual budget of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) created under the law. Funds are sourced from rice tariff collections.

The law liberalized the process of bringing in foreign rice, whose importers must pay a tariff of 35% on Southeast Asian grain. These tariffs are then applied to improving rice farmers’ skills to help them better compete with import competition.

TESDA said it is tasked by the Rice Extension Services Program (RESP) to teach rice production skills, modern farming techniques, and farm mechanization.

RESP scholars receive a P160 daily allowance, free training in farming skills, as well as entrepreneurship training and insurance.

TESDA Director-General Isidro S. Lapeña encouraged farmers and dependents to avail of RESP, adding that commitments are in place to work with other government agencies and the private sector for more training.

On March 16, Mr. Lapeña issued a memorandum instructing regional and provincial directors to organize farm field schools in their respective jurisdictions across 57 provinces targeted for RCEF assistance.

“The farm field schools shall provide applicable technologies needed to improve the capabilities of farmers as they shift from the traditional method to modernized system of rice planting. These schools will also boost their competitiveness to help make the country’s agriculture sector more viable,” Mr. Lapeña said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave