PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan– The National Food Authority (NFA) here said that Palawan farmers need additional post-harvest facilities to meet the demand for rice grains on time during the lean months and to achieve reasonable prices for them.
Ferlita Ancheta, officer-in-charge of the NFA in Palawan, said farmers need post-harvest drying facilities that would lessen grain moisture content to a safe level for storing.
“Not having post-harvest facilities, like the dryers, is what we found out as the main problem of farmers in Palawan,” Ancheta said in a Kapihan hosted Thursday by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).
Ancheta explained that in the province, the NFA has two units of dryers in Brooke’s Point and three units in Narra town, the “rice granary” of the province.
However, only three units can be used as the two other units need to undergo repairs.
“We are bidding for repairs for the other two units to be used,” she said, adding biddings are now being conducted by her office.
The NFA chief explicated further that when rice is harvested, it contains moisture, and without the dryers to help during the rainy season, high level moisture during storage could cause grain discoloration, develop molds, and increase pest attacks.
“It is important to dry the rice grains as soon as they are harvested. If it is delayed, or drying is incomplete because of rain, that can reduce grain quality and result in losses on the part of our farmers,” Ancheta furthered.
Traditional sun drying remains in practice, particularly among small farmers, but during the rainy season, their means of livelihood suffer as their rice harvests are ineffectively dried.
“This is the reason why we are encouraging the post-harvest technology, of using mechanical dryers, because it is a primary need among farmers. If rice has no good quality, the farmers cannot dictate the price,” she stated.
Meanwhile, in sustaining Palawan’s self-sufficiency on rice, Ancheta raised the alarm too, on the loss of interest of young people in farming families to continue tilling the lands.
“The average age of farmers is now 55, and in five years, they will be 60. Of course, their physical strength will really slow down. This is why we encourage local government units to continue to provide scholarship grants on farming courses to encourage the youth not to leave the lands,” she said.
For 2017, the NFA’s main crop procurement target will be more than 200,000 bags as reserve supply, and also for use during the lean season, which is between the months of July to September, Ancheta said.
Out of the national rice import of 250,000 metric tons, or five million bags, Palawan has been allotted 60,000 bags, which will soon arrive either in September or in October.