Getting to know the initiative and importance of the Makina Expo 2017 to farm mechanization in Iloilo City. 

By Julio Yap, Jr.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) recently spearheaded the holding of “Makina Expo 2017” at the Iloilo Convention Center in Mandurriao, Iloilo City. The opening program was graced by Senator Cynthia A. Villar; DA Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol; Davao del Sur Representative Mercedes Cagas; Negros Occidental 2nd District Representative Leo Rafael Cueva; Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor; some members of the diplomatic corps; and local officials.

Formerly called “Makina Saka,” this year’s edition of Makina Expo with the theme “Aangat ang Pagsasaka sa Paggamit ng Tamang Makinarya” assembled a number of participating companies and thousands of agricultural technicians, farmer-leaders, and farmers from different parts of the country. They were introduced to an array of modern farm equipment and machinery which could assist them in improving productivity while helping uplift the lives of Filipino farmers.

Activities such as this could ensure that farmers will have access to, and attain knowledge regarding, appropriate machinery and equipment that can help improve their farming practices, which is crucial to attaining agricultural sustainability.

Importance of farm mechanization: During the event, Senator Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee for Food and Agriculture, underscored the importance of farm mechanization. “I am a staunch supporter of agricultural mechanization. I have time and again cited that based on studies, two of the barriers confronting farmers, fisherfolk, and agricultural workers are lack of technical expertise and mechanization…Together with the various government departments/agencies and organizations such as those behind this event, we should focus on working together towards breaking down those barriers.”

Sen. Villar pointed out that we need to enhance awareness and access to agri-mechanization technologies available in the country as well as from other countries. Agricultural and fisheries mechanization refers to the development, adoption, assembly, manufacture, and application of appropriate, location-specific and cost-effective agricultural and fisheries machinery using human, animal, mechanical,electrical, renewable and other nonconventional sources of energy for agricultural production and postharvest or postproduction operations consistent with agronomic conditions and for efficient and economic farm and fishery management towards modernization of agriculture and fisheries.

Availability: Aside from exposure to farm machinery and equipment at events like Makina Expo, Sen. Villar says that we also need to ensure that Filipinos can make the latest technological and systems innovations available to local industry players.

“…[We] started late in our mechanization efforts, only about five years ago, while our Asian neighbors started mechanizing their farms over three decades ago (in the 1970s),” she said. “So we have a lot of catching up to do. Data [shows] that the Philippines lags behind its regional neighbors in farm mechanization.

Sen. Villar emphasized that local industry players can now produce or manufacture equipment and machinery that are more adaptable to the local setting or terrain. “We hope, with our concerted efforts, we can improve our standing because it will be very beneficial to all of us.”

Promotion, development, and adoption of modern, appropriate, cost-effective and environmentally safe agricultural and fisheries machinery and equipment will enhance farm productivity and efficiency, and can help Filipinos achieve food security in the country and increase farmers’ incomes.

Maintenance: Sen. Villar likewise emphasized that farm schools in the country should also include repair and maintenance of farm machinery in their curricula. Mechanization can significantly bring down the cost of labor, particularly for labor-intensive crops like rice, sugar, and corn. “We must also emphasize that in realizing our mechanization goals, we are not only lowering production and post-harvest losses among others. It also aid in achieving our self-sufficiency and food security goals.”

It was learned that the AFMech Law is now in place; the law acts as a safety net measure for Philippine agriculture to help it remain competitive and enhance its productivity. It is aimed at cushioning the agricultural industries from the effects of an intensified regional competition.

Under the ASEAN Economic Community or AEC, there is now a free flow of goods among ASEAN countries, including agri-fishery machinery and equipment. To protect the local agriculture sector, the AFMech Law has safety net policies on the entry of imported agri-fishery machinery and equipment. These policies include:

• Mandatory testing and evaluation by AMTEC of agri-fishery machinery sold in the market;

• Registration of agri-fishery machinery and equipment manufacturers, fabricators, and importers;

• Development and enforcement of the Philippine Agricultural Engineering Standards;

• Local assembling and manufacturing of agri-fishery machinery and equipment, and;

• Incentives to local manufacturers and assemblers of agri-fisheries machinery.

Competitiveness: Sen. Villar said that another important goal is to improve the global competitiveness of our agriculture sector, particularly with economic reintegration under the AEC in 2015 that brought about cutthroat competition. “We need to continuously dialogue, discuss, and discover ways and means to support the Philippine agriculture sector.”

Even the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has emphasized that mechanization is a crucial input for agricultural crop production and one that historically has been neglected in the context of developing countries. Factors that reduce the availability of farm power compromise the ability to cultivate sufficient land and have long been recognized as a source of poverty.

Sustainable agricultural mechanization can also contribute significantly to the development of value chains and food systems as it has the potential to render postharvest, processing, and marketing activities and functions more efficient, effective, and environmentally friendly.

However, increasing levels of mechanization does not necessarily mean big investments in machinery and equipment. Farmers need to choose the most appropriate power sources for any operation they undertake, depending on the work to be done and who will be performing this work. The level of mechanization should meet their needs effectively and efficiently.

Among the local industry players that participated in the event was Bacolod City-based R.U. Foundry and Machine Shop Corporation (RUFMSC), which manufactures different agricultural machinery and equipment. Its most popular machines, which have gained the attention of the agricultural sector, were on display. These included the shredder, ram pump, and solar equipment, among others.

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s December 2017 issue.