THE Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has developed a four-in-one rice combine harvester that could lessen the postharvest losses from 4.5 percent to 2.2 percent.

The Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DoST-Pcaarrd) provided the funding for the project.

Dr. Caesar Joventino Tado, PhilRice Agusan branch director, said the rice combine harvester could address agricultural labor's shortfall, increase farmers' income, improve productivity and help in the country's pursuit of food security.

Tado said the locally manufactured and designed harvester can reap, clean, thresh and bag, saving on labor costs.

"Compared to imported combine harvester available in the market, RCH (rice combine harvester) is smaller with 1.3-meter harvester width which fits most of the field conditions in the country. Those bigger and imported combine harvesters could not operate in some rice fields in the country," Tado said.

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He added that imported combined harvesters usually cost at least P1 million to P1.5 million compared to the P750,000 cost of the model supported by DoST-Pcaarrd.

"One of the most common problems of our machines is the after-sales service since most of the parts are imported. But since this rice combine harvester is locally manufactured, we would have an easier time and process for its repair and maintenance," he added.

Tado said the labor shortage during harvest time would be lessened with the use of the combine harvester.

"We must consider the average age of our farmers which is around 57 to 58 years old. And for them, it is so difficult to do manual harvesting. But with rice combine harvester, aside from making their harvesting operations easier, it would also free them up to do another possible source of income," he noted.

For his part, Science Secretary Renato Solidum Jr. said the rice combine harvester can help spur industries in the countryside.

"This rice combine harvester is adapted to the actual situation of our rice field conditions in the country, and aside from food security, there will be other industries that would benefit from this and eventually, would allow them to provide additional livelihood opportunities," Solidum said.