Many people think of agriculture as simply planting seeds and harvesting crops. They don’t understand that like any business, it involves a whole production process and that money may have to be spent on different areas along the way.
Raf Dioniso of Make a Difference (MAD) Travel and MAD Market has decided to partner with a few farmers in Zambales to plant rice in 2020 after the travel industry was shut down by the pandemic. To do it right, he had to go through the entire production process himself. That’s what he learned.
Part 1 [ https://mb.com.ph/2021/05/07/from-binhi-to-bigas-the-laypersons-guide-to-the-rice-production-process-part-1/] in this two-part series presented a simplified version of the typical process of rice growing in the Philippines, from land preparation to harvest. This part talks about what happens to the rice after it is harvested.
Separate the grain. After harvesting the rice stalks, the grain, which is at the end of the stalk, should be separated. This is done by a machine, but it can also be done manually.
Drying. “This is where you start to see them putting rice on the highway because highways are heat absorbers and so they’re good solar dryers in that sense. Or a basketball court, ”Dionisio says.
Shelling. This is usually done with a machine, although it can also be done manually. Filipino fine art is filled with images of this. “[Those scenes where] there is a big wooden bowl and you have one or two people with big bats landing on the rice? It’s basically getting the dried rice husks out of the paddy field, ”Dionisio shares, adding that for the Aetas, this is also the perfect time for the young people to start courting.
Separate the rice from the husks. Again, this is usually done with a machine. Like the shelling process, the separation of the casings is also a popular subject in Filipino fine art. “Do you know the imagery of the circular bilao and they keep [tossing] rice in the air? Dionisio asks. “After you crush the rice shell so that the rice seeds come out, you put it in this bilao and you start to turn it over so that when you turn it over, the rice shell falls more slowly and the rice seeds fall more. quickly. be able to get rid of all the rice husk and dust and you will only be left with the seeds. There is a tactic, that’s why it’s not just straightforward, it’s [kind of a] kind of forward movement and it’s a dusty process.
Packaging. “After that, the rice is packed in your bags and you can sell it,” Dionisio says, noting that “the process I mentioned is pretty general. He usually has to go to a rice mill to undergo much of the processing. “
Transport, storage and sale. After that, the journey of a bag of rice will be different. Ideally, it will go directly to the retailer. Most of the time, it will go through a series of means of transport, warehouses and dealers, where it can be repackaged or sold as is.
Each step will require funds, either to pay for the product, transport or storage, among others. The weather can also play a role. A storm, for example, can mean extra time in a warehouse, which also means extra expense. Another factor is the delays caused by the pandemic.
Money is also needed before planting even begins. “The seeds, the preparation of the soil and the actual planting, the fertilizers [and pesticides], and harvest are the five pick-up points because you have to buy your seeds, you have to rent a machine or hire people to cultivate the land, ”explains Dionisio.
Many farmers borrow money for this, and since they cannot borrow from banks, they have to resort to informal money lenders who can charge up to 140% interest per year, usually paid on a percentage of harvest. This is why many farmers remain poor, why they cannot afford to automate, and why they prefer their children not to follow in their footsteps.
This simplified decomposition of the rice production process shows that agriculture is not just planting and harvesting, but a long chain that requires funds and proper planning. People like Dionisio hope to one day shorten this chain and increase farmers’ incomes, both by reducing expenses and interest and increasing yield, to encourage more people to stay in the industry.
An easy way to support Filipino rice farmers is to buy local rice. Another way is to support reforestation efforts, as these will help solve the water problem over a long period of time. The easiest way is to avoid wasting food and kindly remind everyone that it takes a lot of effort to grow the food that appears on our plates, even if it’s just a grain of rice.
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