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NE farm laborers see bleak 2015.

January 9, 2015

mechanical rice harvester

CABANATUAN CITY – The rice harvest was good and the relatively high farm gate price  of the palay harvest, which manifested starting last year, continued to be good, too.

They were reason enough  for land owners and even tenants   to be joyful. But not  for the thousands of farm laborers who failed to share in  the bounties of rice farming in Nueva Ecija.

“Gawat po nitong nakaraang anihan (We have  nothing this last cropping season),  Marlon Manale, 36, of Villa Cuizon, Science City of  Muñoz, said.

“Inagawan po kami ng mga halimaw sa aming  dating knikita (The   beasts robbed us of the opportunity  to get our usual earnings),” he added.

He was referring to the mechanical rice harvester, called  combine harvester, which did the reaping, threshing and  bagging of the rice harvest in many  rice farms in the prov-ince. Manale said that he was  only able to get three cavans as share for harvesting in  the rice lands whose owners did  not employ the use of mechanical harvester.

He said he  used to take home every harvesting  season from 10 to 15 cavans as share for harvesting. Manale’s reduced share in rice harvesting  was also experienced by several thousand human harvesters in the  province as hundreds of combine harvesters took he job of rice harvesting.

Some of the  mechanical harvesters came  from Isabela province where there is now  a proliferation of this machine. Each harvester costs about  P1.3 million. It can finish reaping, threshing and bagging  of the harvest in one hectare in less than a day.

The fee is 12  cavans for every 100 cavans harvested. The human harvesters’  share for the reaping and bundling of the harvest is  7.5 cavans per hundred and  for threshing, another 7.5 cavans per hundred.

“Naging malungkot po ang Pasko para sa amin ngayon (Christmas was not merry for  us  this time),” Manale said.  Although land cultivations and transplanting jobs are now  happening for the dry season cropping, many laborers said  the opportunity for them to earn much is also bleak.

The  area to be cultivated for rice cropping in Nueva Ecija this season has been reduced by 30 percent due to the low level of irrigation water at Pantabangan  Dam. Nueva Ecija, considered  the premier rice-producing province in the country, accounts  for  at least 200,000 farm laborers.

They find income by plowing the field,  pulling the seedlings, transplanting, weeding, fixing embankments, harvesting, serving as crew of  mini-threshers, for “karyada” or hauling of the  harvest, and for hauling and drying of the harvest on pavements. -Elmo Roque

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