By Genalyn Kabiling
Agricultural losses caused by El Nino phenomenon have reached P7.97 billion with rice and corn as the most affected crops as of April, the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced Wednesday.
Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan said the El Nino dry condition has damaged 277,888 hectares of farmlands, including rice, corn and high-value crop plantations, and affected 247,618 farmers and fisherfolk.
Rice losses hit P4.04 billion with 140,387 farmers and 144,202 hectares affected as of April 30, according to Cayanan.
The volume loss was estimated at 191,761 metric tons or a 0.96 drop in target annual crop production.
The areas with highest rice damage are Cagayan at P651.24 million, Camarines Sur at P501.59 million, and Palawan at P316.08 million.
Damage to corn, on the other hand, was pegged at P3.89 billion that affected 133,007 hectares of farmland and 105,937 farmers.
These could have yielded 254,766 metric tons or 2.95 annual corn production target. Cagayan, Apayao, and Isabela were reportedly among the provinces that had the highest corn damage.
“The staple food – I’m referring to rice and corn – rice as our staple food and corn being the food and the feed crop ay malaki po ang naging epekto [there is a huge impact],” Cayanan said during a Palace press briefing.
High-value crops damage reached P27.8 million affecting 679 hectares and 1,156 farmers.
The provinces with the highest high-value crop damage area Apayao, Occidental Mindoro and Bukidnon.
“Doon sa assorted vegetable po natin na naapektuhan [The affected assorted vegetables] were the following: squash, sitaw, eggplant, pechay, ampalaya, upo, tomato, sweet potato, okra, hot pepper, mung bean, onion, garlic, snap and beans. Ano po ang common denominator? [What’s the common denominator?] These are considered to be the cash crop,” Cayanan said.
The loss in fisheries caused by El Niño was recorded at P12.4 million with 138 fisherfolk affected.
Areas with the highest damage for fisheries are Cebu, La Union, and Zamboanga City.
“Sa fisheries, sa pangisdaan, ang [In fisheries] damaged produce includes tilapia, bangus, malaga, seaweed, oyster, prawn, crab in Ilocos Norte, La Union, Zamboanga, Lanao Del Norte and Misamis Oriental,” Cayanan said.
To help farmers affected by El Niño, the DA official said they have set aside P95.875 million in financial assistance under the Survival and Recovery Assistance (SURE) program.
The Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) has also paid P632.6 million to 79,515 farmers.
He said they have also conducted field validation to assess the damage and loss and continuous monitoring of crops in areas at risk.
He added that drones and the National Agricultural Drought Monitor using satellite images are used to continuously monitor the vulnerable areas.
From March to May, the government has also conducted 49 cloud seeding operations with a total of 720 bags of salt dispersed over Magat watershed and agricultural areas in Region 2.
Cayanan said 44 of the 49 sorties produced light and moderate to heavy rainfall in the covered areas. The water level of Magat Dam also rose by 17.09 meters from March 24 to May 23.
Meantime, the government remained optimistic that it will reach the economic growth target this year despite the impact of El Niño in the country.
National Economic and Development Authority Undersecretary Adoracion Navarro said they have readied an expanded roadmap to address the El Niño impact, which includes programs to ensure water security, food security, energy security, health, and public safety.
The total investment requirement is P14.47 billion, she added.
“Kung ma-implement natin itong mga interventions na ito, talagang [If we can implement these interventions] we’re confident na we will be within the six to seven percent GDP growth range,” she said in the same press briefing at the Palace.
“With respect to El Niño, we are implementing interventions and we are finding sources for those which are not funded right now in the agency’s regular budgets,” she said.