Monday, December 12, 2011

The case for an affordable locally adapted combine-harvester

Harvesting and threshing of paddy are serious bottlenecks for rice farmers. Large combine-harvesters are ill adapted to the rice fields of smallholders. Consequently, paddy may sit in the field for weeks or even months waiting to be harvested or threshed, during which time its quality deteriorates because of exposure to the elements.

As a result, many rice farmers resort to manual harvesting and threshing operations, which are time-consuming and affect the quality of the paddy. Delayed removal of paddy from the farm impinges upon the second season, jeopardizing the option for a profitable second crop.

AfricaRice is introducing and adapting a small affordable combine-harvester in the Senegal River valley, to enable timely harvesting and threshing. This could provide the incentive for farmers to sell their paddy quickly and focus on producing a second crop (either rice or a horticultural crop such as tomato, potato or green bean).

The early removal of paddy from the farm would not only enable farmers to focus on their core farming business (i.e. crop production), but would also open up the prospect for greater aggregation of the marketable surplus of paddy.

Fragmentation of available marketable volume of paddy — that is, the fact that producers act alone in processing and selling their surplus paddy — is a major disincentive to private-sector investment in the domestic rice value chain.

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