Old school: Flat bed dryers still the best for Filipino rice farmers
Should rice farmers ditch the use of flat bed paddy dryers (FPBD)?
Since the Philippines is constantly reeling from unpredictable weather patterns and climate change, the use of FPBD technology should be sustained. Instead of using costly, imported rice drying machines, the 2-ton rice dryer should be modernized to keep up with the demands of rice postharvest activities in the country.
According to Capt. Gene Bautista, a former commercial airline pilot and now a rice farmer, FPBD has an upper hand in the Philippines compared to imported and expensive rice drying equipment because it is less expensive, locally manufactured and maintained using indigenous materials and labor.
While this device created by the University of the Philippines Los Baños has been described a modest and unremarkable invention, he said FBPDs are an old reliable machines that can come in handy most especially during the rainy season.
Due to erratic downpours experienced in most parts of the country, the machine can progressively keep up with the demands of postharvest operations as they can be installed or built even in areas where electricity is not available.
Sharing his thoughts on FPBD with Agriculture Monthly, Bautista believes the government can do something to modernize this invention, substitute its components with durable materials to improve its efficiency and change the mindset of small rice farmers struggling to keep up with the latest agricultural technologies.
He noted that since the Department of Agriculture launched it in 2000, the use of FPBDs was hounded with many issues that contributed greatly to the deficiencies of the technology. That is why most farmers have mediocre acceptance of the equipment.
“One study points to a failure of the implementing agency to provide needed and timely technical support; this contributed greatly to the equipment’s poor performance,” Bautista said.
There is also this mindset among local rice farmers that FBPDs are mere government “doleouts” and so their maintenance should also be government’s responsibility.
“The government for its part may have half-heartedly promoted the technology, which resulted in acceptability failure among the farmers, and technology transfer failure on the part of government,” he said.
“Either way, it was a great loss to the rice industry and the country as a whole,” the rice farm owner added.
What government agencies can do to revive the continued and wider adoption of FBPD, he said, is to repair existing machines to address pressure leaks in the plenum chambers to make them more efficient and useful.
He also suggested that the government provide recipients of the FBPDs with appropriate training regarding the operation and maintenance of the dryers and even conduct follow-up guidance sessions periodically.
The DA should also regularly check for improvements that need to be instituted when the need arises. Units beyond repair should be replaced, while units that can still be cost-effectively restored should be properly fixed and maintained.
“Government extension agencies involved in the dissemination of agricultural technologies should double their efforts to change the mindset of small rice farmers; they need to learn that not all things provided by the government are doleouts, and neither do they come from the personal funds of politicians,” Bautista stressed.
“These technologies are paid for using the taxes of Filipino citizens like themselves. It must be stressed that their role as recipients of these technologies is to use them properly and protect them from their continued benefit, and that of the population in general as well,” he pointed out. (Ched Romulo)