Typhoon damage to agri sector “way bigger” than gov’t estimates

Published November 9, 2020, 1:40 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The damage and losses that Typhoon Quinta and Super Typhoon Rolly incurred to the agriculture sector and to farmers should be way bigger than the government estimates, since the Department of Agriculture (DA) only looks at actual damages and not the consequential damages.  

Asis Perez, convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan, said the government should also look at the “consequential damage” of typhoons to crops and to the lives of farmers and fishermen in order to get the real picture of the post-typhoon situations in the farm sector.    

Asis Perez, convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan

This means that beyond the actual value of “crops”, the DA should also look at the condition of affected agricultural areas and take into account the period they need before they can fully recover.

“When there’s typhoon, it’s not just its damage to the crops that matter, it’s also the damage in the life of the farmers. The damage estimate, for Rolly alone, is P3 billion, which we think is lower than the actual damage. We are only looking at the damage to actual crops, how about the damage to the life of the farmers?” Perez told reporters in a virtual bi-monthly Food Security Forum.  

“More than the actual damage caused by the two typhoons, the government must also look at the consequential damage. Some of the crops may not bear fruit until after a year, others even more,” he added.  

Rene Cerilla, policy leader of Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahan ng mga Magsasaka (PAKISAMA) and a farmer-leader from Lopez, Quezon, said Rolly and Quinta caused severe damages in the lives of farmers in Bicol region and Quezon province.

Rene Cerilla, policy leader of Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahan ng mga Magsasaka.

More than their crops, he said a lot of them are now preoccupied re-building their destroyed homes, while their children’s education has been put on hold because there is no electricity within their areas.

“Our farmer-leader in Albay, her house was completely destroyed and they are now busy re-building it. She said she’s already obtained wounds from trying to salvage what is left of her home,” Cerilla said.

“There is no electricity too, no signal. We are really having a hard time. Our children couldn’t study,” he added.

In terms of yield, Cerilla said that while some were able to harvest their crops early, especially in rice, a few days before the typhoons made landfall, the gloomy weather and the lack of post-harvest facilities now prevent them from drying their yield.

This, according to him, will result in low prices or in them not being able to sell at all.  

“Those that we wouldn’t be able to sell, we will just eat it,” Cerilla said. “Those we will sell, we can only sell it for a very low price, which means we won’t make any money at all”.

In other commodities like coconut, Cerilla said 75 to 85 percent of production has been destroyed, at least in Lopez, Quezon where he lives.

The problem about this is that it takes about a year before a damaged coconut tree could recover.

The DA said that because of its early advisories prior to Quinta and Rolly, nearly P27 billion worth of palay and corn were saved in the regions that were along the path of the typhoons.

“In DA’s data, 75 percent of the crops in areas hit by Quinta and Rolly were saved [due to early advisory]. But even if they were harvested early, the yield wouldn’t be in good quality anymore. It’s either they will not be bought or will be bought at very low cost,” Perez reiterated.  

What the government should do now, according to Perez, is to improve the way it measures the damage and losses typhoons incur in the agriculture sector, develop a more comprehensive insurance coverage for farmers, and build more post-harvest facilities such as drying machinery and storage houses.

Cerilla agreed on this, saying that right now, it’s so hard for farmers to apply for insurance coverage for their crops.

This, since the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), state-funded crop insurer, don’t reach out to farmers.

“I hope they deploy local agents and reach out to farmers and help them insure their crops. They should also set up offices where we can visit,” he further said.

As of Friday last week, the combined amount of damage and losses that the farm sector incurred from Quinta and Rolly is now at P5.67 billion, according to DA’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRM).

The two typhoons have so far affected 89,259 farmers and fisherfolk and 162,693 hectares of agricultural areas in CAR, Regions 1, 2, 3, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, 5, 6, and 8.

Tugon Kabuhayan, where Perez is a part of, is an advocacy group helping Filipino farmers by promoting domestic production, food safety and security and environmental protection, among others.