ABOUT P2.58 billion is allocated for the country’s preparation on the possible onslaught of the dry spell, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.

The El Niño Task Force identified 23 highly vulnerable areas and 24 moderately vulnerable areas in the country which Tabianan said is beneficial for the province.

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The dry spell is expected to last till early June this year, the DA said.

But Provincial Agriculturist Igmedio Tabianan said that Negros Occidental is not among the areas considered as highly vulnerable to an onslaught of the phenomenon, except for the provinces of Capiz and Iloilo in Western Visayas.

The Provincial Board (PB) approved P8 million fund two weeks ago to cushion the dry spell’s ill-effects.

“There is no cause for panic considering that the province is backed up with supplies especially of rice,” said Tabianan.

Although the province is 90 to 95 percent efficient in rice supply, in case the situation worsens, the National Food Authority (NFA) is there to back up buffer stocks, Tabianan said.

Tabianan opined that NFA’s stocks will be available monthly until July. For now, NFA rice stocks available are 100,000 that would last for 51 days.

Meanwhile, the DA said its budget in mitigation program is intended for the cloud seeding operations; installation of shallow tube wells, rain pumps and drip irrigation systems as well as construction of small water impounding projects and development of water springs; provision of hybrid seeds, farm implements and fertilizers to farmers; and the distribution of animal stocks, biologics and drugs for livestock growers.

Weather scientists said El Nino is the unusual warming of sea surface temperatures along the equatorial Pacific that is usually characterized by below-average rainfall.

The major produce vulnerable to El Nino all over the country includes palay which could lead to a projected production loss of 2.36 million metric tons worth some P40 billion, covering an area of 620,000 hectares, a DA report said.

It added that corn is another vulnerable sector with projected losses of 1.26 million metric tons worth P16.4 billion covering 350,000 hectares.

Western Visayas can still expect sufficient supply of rice and corn in the coming months, despite the threats of El Nino, as the region has posted a positive growth of 4.09 percent or 2,204,279 metric tons higher than the 2008 production record, that placed WV second in rank among regions, DA said. (With reports from PIA)