Nueva Ecija farmers plead for help, too
CABANATUAN CITY—Like farmers who suffered heavy losses as a result of the El Niño phenomenon, farm workers in Nueva Ecija province are pleading for help, too.
The workers, mainly those who do the harvesting, are attributing their woes to a farm mechanization program of the government, which replaced manual labor with combine harvester machines.
The agriculture department promoted farm mechanization five years ago “to further increase the productivity and income of small farmers.”
But it apparently forgot about the farm workers that the machines displaced.
In the Science City of Muñoz, 133 harvester machines, which perform three separate operations—reaping, threshing and winnowing—have been fielded at the height of the harvest season.
But the toll of mechanization has been hard for farm workers like Marlon Manale, 36, and the government has yet to address their plight.
“I did not share from the bountiful harvest like I used to in the past,” Manale said, as combine harvester machines are able to harvest, thresh and bag rice grains in a single operation.
He said rice harvesting has been his source of food and money, allowing him to take home as many as 15 cavans of palay as his fee. Human harvesters get a share of 7.5 cavans per 100 cavans harvested.
Manale also raised money by performing “kariada” (the hauling of rice harvest from the farm to the road using a cart pulled by a carabao).
“I was only able to bring home two cavans of palay from harvesting in the muddy field. I did not earn from kariada which pays P12 per cavan,” he said.
This harvest season, Nueva Ecija has recorded another banner season of rice cropping. The average palay yield is 140 cavans per hectare in more than 1,600 hectares, according to Evelyn Santos, rice program coordinator in the provincial agriculturist’s office.
“Our standing crop was not hit by El Niño as there was sufficient irrigation water provided,” said Santos.
She said close to 1,000 combine machine harvesters did most of the harvesting in the province.
Wilfredo Bernardo, owner of a combine machine harvester, said loans provided by the banks and remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFW) made it easy for many entrepreneurs to own mechanical harvesters. Each machine costs from P1.5 million to P1.7 million. Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon
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