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Maguindanao farmers to profit from postharvest support

Mamasapano, Maguindanao (22 October) -- In the heart of sprawling rice field stands a progressive type rice mill building operated by farmers themselves.

The establishment of this rice mill facility brought much relief to rice farmers in this town where lack of the said postharvest facility limits their capacity to produce quality rice.

"We used to bring our palay as far as Shariff Aguak where we pay P20 per sack in milling. If it can no longer be accommodated we go as far as Isulan where we pay as much as P40 per sack," related Benjamin Abdulmaoti, the chairman of the Mamayagan People’s Organization.

"Bringing our palay to the other place for milling would mean additional transport cost as well as losses where mishandling are oftentimes unavoidable," he added.

Although not profitable, most of the farmers here opted to sell their palay to traders sans the difficulty of milling their own produce.

To address the need for better postharvest facility, Abdulmaoti along with the other members of the people’s organization (PO) sought the assistance of their local agriculture office and endorsed their proposal to be part of the Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP).

MRDP through its Community Fund for Agricultural Development (CFAD) is providing livelihood assistance to boost rural incomes of farmers across Mindanao. It also provides infrastructure and environmental conservation supports to 225 covered towns.

"When we evaluated the area, we appreciate its potential of producing enough rice for our town. It has 300 hectares of irrigated rice fields and a rice mill will be of great help both in minimizing farm losses and in increasing income," said municipal agriculturist Modrika Masukat.

The rice mill project installed in Barangay Manungkalin was the first and the only facility in the area. The size (9 x 15 x 6 meters) is much bigger as compared to the usual mini-rice mill project which is only 4 x 6 x 6 meters.

"During project planning the PO members agreed to expand the size of the building to have enough space in storing palay during peak harvest. This turns the facility into a multi-purpose building where milling and storing of both palay and rice can be done, "Masukat said.

Since the P550, 000 funding is just enough for the purchase of milling facility and construction of a small building the POs sourced out funds from the local government units.

"The barangay government provided the sand and gravel including the earth fill while the municipal government provided the solar dryer in the adjacent," Masukat added.

Now that the rice mill facility was installed, the farmers’ difficulty in bringing their palay to distant places is no longer a problem. The accessibility of the milling facility has eliminated their transportation expenses and help in improving their incomes.

Milling cost for PO members is P1.00 per kilo while non-members is charged P1.50 per kilo. Abdulmaoti said the income they are earning will be used for continued construction of their building.

"When we started our first milling operations, the harvest season was about to end so we only earned P10, 000. We are confident that in the succeeding cropping seasons we could earn more," he said.

"The farmers will now have better option as to where they are going to sell their produce. They can sell the milled rice to their cooperative or to other rice retailers that offers better buying price," Masukat said.

"Rice farmers must be given access to modern milling and postharvest facilities to minimize postharvest losses and increase their income," said MRDP program director Lealyn Ramos.

"Given the increasing demand to secure the supply of our staple food, the challenge now is how to make rice production more profitable so that we can entice more farmers to sustain rice farming," Ramos added.

Ramos said while MRDP looking into the potentials of rice farmers in meeting the country’s food security, the program is also concern in improving postharvest practices for them to make headway in feeding millions of hungry people. (Noel T. Provido/DA-MRDP) [top]

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