CITY OF SAN FERNANDO--- About P21 billion worth of rice crops are threatened of being damaged by the continuing onslaught of El Niño phenomenon, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said Sunday.

In the latest report from the DA, some 6, 57 metric tons (MT) might be removed from this season’s cropping season as a result of the dry spell.

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DA Regional Director Redentor Gatus told Sun.Star Pampanga that the data projection of possible damage was taken only from the provinces of Bulacan, Tarlac, Zambales and Nueva Ecija, the rice granary of Luzon.

Data from other provinces of Central Luzon are still being collated as of press time.

“These are still projections, but based from this we can expect were the impact of the possible damage is leading and we could make the necessary interventions and mitigation works for farmers,” Gatus said.

Gatus said that a total of 4, 412 hectares in the four mentioned provinces are severely affected by El Nino. This places the number of affected farmers to 3, 498. But Gatus said that despite the possible effects, there is still no direct effect on the rice market sector, particularly on supply and prices.

Even in the worst-case scenario of a dry spell to last till the yearend for Luzon, Gatus said, the DA projections show that palay production is expected fill in the needed “regular demands.”

Meanwhile, some P810,000 worth of corn crops are also threatened by the dry spell, according to the DA field offices.

Gatus added that, for the national sector, the DA projected land area to be affected by a moderate El Niño is 543,844.8 hectares in rice while 273,411.6 hectares in corn.

He added that commercial crops such as vegetables could also be damaged and could reach as much as 3.804 million metric tons.

Gatus said aside from rice, corn and vegetables, sugarcane plantations as well as fisheries sector can also be affected by the lack of water and extreme temperatures caused by the El Niño.

As mitigation measures, specific measures were recommended to ease the effects of the dry spell such as cloud seeding for both corn and rice areas; water management especially in dams under the control of National Irrigation Administration (NIA); distribute shallow tube wells for farmer; distribution of microbial fertilizers as well as organic fertilizers for corn farmers; and give out vegetable seeds for farmers against small water irrigation facilities.

Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Renato Romero said that the El Nino Phenomenon here has still no direct effects yet on the business sector. However, Romero worries that the prolonged El Nino may result in jerked up prices if the projections on damage of the DA will come true.

“The prices of agri-products and agri-based goods may jerk up,” Romero said.

Romero hopes that the government will help farmers affected by the dry spell and implement product importation if necessary to prevent possible shortages.

Romero, however, sees a little benefit of the dry spell on the beverage and drinking sector.

“They may experience larger sales, but as the heat is currently affecting our use of electricity, the cost of doing business may also be affected,” Romero said.