Sunday, February 12, 2006

Harvesting the rice

Yesterday, it was time to harvest the rice. So, I went along and with trusty digital camera in hand I took a few pictures and even a couple of videos. As for the videos I hope to get them on Google Video at some later date but the pictures should be available for viewing as soon as flickr processes the files and their tags.

Unfortunately, until I can sort the order out, you'll have to view the pictures in reverse chronological order.

We used a sort of miniature sickle for cutting the rice stalks by hand. The rice stalks were then moved first by the children and then by everybody else, when all the rice had been cut, to a central mound where a machine (a thresher?) will separate the rice from the stalks. The whole neighbourhood was involved in the harvesting even though the land is owned by one fellow (who I haven’t met, I don’t think he lives here) and is largely worked by another fellow – namely Albert.

The harvest, Rosi tells me, is divided amongst the harvesters and Albert in a ratio of 2:21 respectively. Albert divides his portion 1:1 with the owner who shares the costs of fertilizer and pesticide. Oh yeah, and the owner of the machine that separates the rice from the stalk gets 1 bucket of rice for his share. The bucket used for measuring is 12 litres (30cm x 20cm x 20 cm=12000cm3 or 12 litres).

After the rice is separated from the stalk, it needs to be dried in the sun for two hot sunny days and then the hard outer layer (the chaff?) is removed with another machine that travels up and down the main road all throughout the harvest. Rosi says that the cost for processing a 40 to 50 kg bag results in about 12 litres of edible rice and the cost for removing the chaff is about 25 pesos.

If you want to buy rice at the local market or in Kalibo, you’ll have to pay 20 pesos (US$0.40) per kilogram because, just like in Korea, the rice market in the Philippines is heavily regulated to keep the rice landowners (notice I don’t say the farmers because generally the farmland is worked by one person and owned by another) in business and so to maintain a good supply of domestic rice.

I remember being quite shocked at the price of rice when I first arrived in Korea (I paid US$12 for 10kg)– Koreans claim that the rice quality in Canada is proportionally low along with the price but I think there is a lot more to it than that.

The Filipino price doesn’t seem too bad to Canadians, but for the local economy, the price is a real hardship!

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