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Invest in post-harvest facilities to improve agri productivity

Improving postharvest management and the provision of post-harvest facilities are among the crucial interventions that must be prioritized to improve the productivity and competitiveness of our farmers and fisherfolks.

A study from the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) released this year showed significant post-harvest losses experienced by the mango, tomato and onion industries in the Philippines.

Among those cited in the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded study is the mango produced in Pangasinan and traded in Manila that incurred post-harvest loss of 30.85 percent, or a volume of 31,581 tonnes valued at ₱1.5 million. Post-harvest losses of cold stored red onions from Bongabon, Nueva Ecija to the final market in Divisoria, Manila is 63.90 percent, with estimated volume at 69,333 tonnes and valued at ₱4.01 billion. While, post-harvest loss of newly harvested tomato from Bukidnon, Northern Mindanao to the final market in Manila is at 24.14 percent, which equates to an estimated volume of 9,928 tonnes and value close to ₱180 million.

In the fisheries sector, based on government statistics, almost 40 percent of the total fish production and income of Filipino fishermen go to waste due to lack of post-harvest equipment.

Moreover, according to the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), post-harvest losses among major farm commodities in the Philippines range from 10 to 50 percent.

When I was with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the farmers and fisherfolks we met while building farm to market roads would always raise the same concern—the lack of post-harvest facilities that results in loss of income and reduces productivity.

According to the DA, their modernization programs aim to decrease these post-harvest losses. Under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Modernization Program, farm machinery are distributed to Farm Cooperatives and Associations (FCAs) based on the urgency and needs of these groups. The program aims to reduce the cost of production of rice by ₱2-₱3 per kilogram and reduce post-harvest losses by three to five percent.

Since 2020, PHilMech has distributed 19,285 farm machines to qualified FCAs. Among the type of farm machines are four-wheel tractor, one-hand tractor, rice combine harvester, disc plow, precision seeder, walk behind transplanter, riding type transplanter, reaper, thresher, mobile rice mill, single-pass rice mill, multi-pass rice mill, mobile dryer, and recirculating dryer.

The DA is also hoping to implement its Fisheries and Coastal Resiliency (FishCoRe) project, which aims to support the scaling-up and modernization of the Philippine capture fisheries and aquaculture industry, through the provision of technical support and innovation, access to modern and resilient fisheries infrastructure and post-harvest facilities, and promotion of efficient connectivity and product value addition, among others.

Apart from having these programs, there should be a more proactive approach to reach out to our small farmers and fisherfolks. We need to identify those who need government support the most. We cannot expect farmers and fisherfolks from poor communities to proceed to government offices and submit documents or other requirements to access subsidies and government programs.

We should promote community-based post-harvest and processing facilities. Local governments should assist and support farming communities in forming cooperatives so they may access these modernization programs of the DA, as well as to undergo the necessary training to equip them with the know-how and proper care and handling of these equipment.

We need to support and empower our agriculture sector because it is a major source of income and jobs. More importantly, as our farmers and fisherfolk provide our nation’s food and nutrition needs, it is imperative that government also provides them with the support they need to increase their income and improve their productivity and competitiveness.

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