More mechanization needed amid dwindling farm workers — DA

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A FARMER harvest rice using a mechanical thresher. -- AFP

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is pushing for further farm mechanization to improve work conditions and output, as a response to the decrease in the number of people taking up farming.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters in a chance interview that fewer workers in the farming industry could be interpreted as an indication of the relative attractiveness of other careers in a growing economy.

“It could be an indication of economic progress because if their lives are improving, then they may no longer want to plant rice.”

The Sugar Regulatory Administration has said that it expects sugar workers to take up construction jobs because of better pay, with construction labor in demand as the government pursues an aggressive program of infrastructure projects.

“No matter what we do, farming really has a stigma. If people see the farmer riding a tractor instead of a water buffalo, then that’s a different conversation. Modernization could change things,” Mr. Piñol said.

On the matter of improving output and value-added in the sector, Mr. Piñol said he met last week with a biotechnology company in preparation for the arrival of dairy cows from Brazil.

Mr. Piñol said farmers should seek to climb the value chain in dairy with specialty products such as ice cream and cheese.

On Wednesday, Mr. Piñol went to Papua New Guinea to sign an agreement to allow Filipino companies to plant hybrid rice seed on a 100-hectare model farm initially, before expanding to more planting on available land in PNG.

“Outsourcing has been a trend going on for decades already. The Philippines is just catching up. It could be an indication that we are really economically growing. If we can operate outside of our country, it means that we are growing,” Mr. Piñol said.

As for other crops, Mr. Piñol added that the private sector has to take the lead.

“Our job is to facilitate, to enter into an agreement with that country so that their investments will be secured with a bilateral agreement, which helps protect the investors from future policy changes.” — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato