By Lovella P. Guarin
NABUA, Camarines Sur --- The “Ber” months signal not only the festive air of Christmas but also the onset of rain and sometimes typhoon which can jeopardize our rice farmers’ harvests for the wet season cropping.
But today rice farmers are not as worried as in the past because of the availability now of Flatbed Dryers (FBDs).
Since 2007, the Department of Agriculture has established 362 units of flat bed dryers in the region funded under the Rice Program. Less than a hundred dryers were also established under the Bottom Up Budgeting Project. These dryers have benefited over 350 farmers’ organizations and NFA provincial offices.
Flat bed dryers can dry dripping wet palay and corn. Drying or removal of excess moisture for safe storage is another way of increasing farmers’ income by reducing quantity and quality losses. Dried palay at 14% moisture content can be stored up to three months while farmers are waiting for higher price, thus expanding opportunities for farmers.
The provision of FBD is governed by a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the DA, PhilMech and the recipient organization. One of the conditions stipulated in the MOA is that in case the FBD has not been utilized for two or more months, the DA has the right to transfer the said FBD to another farmers’ organization.
In 2014, the DA has stopped constructing FBDs and focused on rehabilitation and transfer of existing units. Thus, a number of farmers’ organizations which have not received the facility were given chance this time around.
And on October 24-26, 2018, these new recipients of the FBDs that have been repossessed by the DA due to non-use, underwent a Training on the Operation and Maintenance of Flatbed Dryer at Regal Plaza Hotel, this municipality. Over 30 participants attended the 3-day training. They were composed of association presidents, secretaries and flat bed operators.
Engr. Penafrancia O. Suzara, Engineer II, of the Regional Agricultural Engineering Division (RAED), delivered the opening remarks during the opening program. She said that FBDs were provided by the DA in the past years to reduce postharvest losses and help farmers’ associations generate income from palay drying.
Engr. Suzara also urged the participants to maximize the use of their FBDs and maintain two operators to ensure continuous operation. She also reminded the association presidents to save some of their income for the maintenance of the facility as the DA can only shoulder the rehabilitation of the shed, furnace and flooring.
Engr. Suzara added that these FBDs which cost P700,000 to P850,000 (for FBDs with mixer) designed by the PhilMech were given for free by the DA to the recipient organizations. The only counterpart from the recipient was 200 sq. m. lot area and 6x13 sq. m flooring. The FBDs use rice hull as fuel and gasoline to start the engine blower.
One new recipient of FBD was Montecalvario Smart Farmers Association (MOCSFA) represented in the training by its president, Jejomar C. Aguilar. The coop has 55 members tilling close to 100 hectares rice areas. Aguilar noticed that there is not a single flatbed dryer installed to in barangay Montecalvario and neighboring barangays in Buhi, Camarines Sur. Their constant problem during wet season is they cannot store their palay. “kahit mababa ang presyo, kailangan nang ibenta ang palay. Kung iniimbak naman maraming nasasayang, tumutubo na at nangingitim dahil hindi natuyo,” he related.
Thus, Aguilar submitted a letter request to DA Regional Executive Director Elena B. de los Santos for the installation of flatbed dryer in their area. The members pay P25/ bag of wet palay. P20 goes to the coop and P5 to the FBD operator. Their dryer is open 24 hours to coop members and even non-members. The FBD has a maximum capacity of 120 bags. Based on Aguilar’s experience, they have dried 85 bags at 50 kilos palay for 10 hours using 6 liters diesel and 11 bags rice hull. He is optimistic that more farmers in his area will earn higher profit with the aid of the FBD.
Nino Bengosta, Science Research Specialist II and Cluster Head for Luzon B of PhilMech, served as the resource speaker during the training. Through lectures and hands on exercises, the participants learned the concept of biomass furnace, principles of grain drying, components of FBD, parts and functions of FBD, operating procedure, post-drying operation and safety measures, maintenance, trouble shooting and preparation of Utilization Report.
The DA through the RAED is monitoring the status of these FBDs through the required utilization report to be submitted by the recipients of FBDs.
Engr. Bengosta also added that a Regional Technology Management and Demonstration Center located beside the RAED building at the DA Bicol compound will be opened to the public in November 2018. This will serve as a showroom and demonstration center of the technologies developed by the PhilMech.