By Mabelle R. Ilan
For people who just buy rice, they have no idea how hard it is for farmers to produce food for them. Years back farmers dry their palay on mats and concrete roads. They purely depend on sunlight to dry harvested palay. Drying palay manually is laborious. One has to turn it every twenty minutes to take advantage of the heat of the sun. During wet season harvested palay has to wait for the sun to shine and the long wait sometimes result to discolored grains and sometimes rotten grains. These scenario would find the poor farmers at a losing end.
Today, with the advent of technology farmers could immediately dry their palay after threshing even during rainy days. This is the result of the Department of Agriculture's post harvest and mechanization intervention under the Agri-Pinoy rice program. Flat bed dryers (FBDs) were distributed by DA regionwide and with the technology many farmers really benefitted from this facility.
Rebusquillo also said that they earn more from using the flatbed driers because immediately after threshing farmers need not wait for the heat of the sun to dry their palay, instead they just have to bring their products in the dryer and the next day they can mill it or sell it to NFA or to compradas. Testimonies from rice farmers in the area revealed that they earn more from the sale of their palay because they obtain quality dried palay and they can sell their palay at a higher price even during the wet season. Aside from this, postharvest losses is minimized.
"Farmers who have their palay dried by FBD can sell their palay from P 13 to Ps 17 per kilo during the wet season. Overall postharvest losses were reduced from around 10% to 15% . But we saw that quality grains could be obtained with proper post harvest handling and FBD operation " Maporong Barangay Captain Leopoldo Zaragoza said.
Zaragosa added that neighboring barangays already learned the benefits of the FBD and during harvest season their FBD is occupied 24/7. Because of smaller space farmers just cover the sacks of palay piled on streets with tarpaulin. These barangays include : Matambo, San Ramon, Bagsak, Bagumbayan, Sitio Labao and Barangay Gilid.
FBD Operator Edwin Rebancos said that proper operation and maintenance of FBD is important for it to effectively serve more farmers. He said that every after drying he cleans the dryer check the engine before starting a new batch. He disclosed that since the installation of the FBD in 2010, they only repair a small hole in the screen and the oven. He said that the key to obtain the full benefits of the dryer is proper maintenance and operation. It is important to have one permanent operator for the FBD and an alternate to ensure it is serviceable at all times.
The association has now collected Ps 105,000 from the drying service fee which they use as production loan to its members at minimal interest rate of 6%. A member could loan Ps 19,000 payable in one year. The association plans to venture into palay trading and its members are willing to come up with start-up capital for the said project. They also signify their intention to avail of another unit of FBD as during peak harvest many farmers could not avail of their drying facility. They also intend to apply for a rice mill for them to process their palay and be marketed in rice form.
FBDs in the region use rice hull to generate heat to dry fresh palay. It can dry wet palay to 14% moisture content in 10 to 12 hours. Agriculture regional executive director Jose V. Dayao said that FBDs are gaining positive impact from the farmers. He said that based on the assessment made by PHILMEch and RAED more and more farmers are now availing of the drying facilities for them to obtain quality palay and realize better price and income. The region has installed 227 FBDs and with these postharvest interventions in place farmers is now reaping its benefits and post harvest losses will be minimized.
Today, Maporong farmers learned that selling in rice form gave them added benefit and income. They even avail of the services of the dryer even during dry season because they want to ensure that they obtain quality grains and minimize grain losses. And after knowing all these benefits they are convinced that palay drying is indeed a business.