DAVAO CITY -- The long dry spell in Mindanao is not just affecting the island’s power generation but its fruit tree production as well.

The Mindanao Fruit Council (MFC) has warned that if the El Niño phenomenon continues, many fruit trees in Davao Region are expected to die.

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MFC executive Larry Miculob said many trees are now "stressed" because of lack of water and if fruit farmers, both small and big producers, do not have strong irrigation system, a lot of fruit trees may die after April 15.

He said Davao Region is Mindanao's top producer of bananas, pineapples, mangoes, and pomelos and if dry spell continues to more months, the fruit production will dip about 20 percent this year.

"We can expect a drop in fruit production if we'll have a long dry season. Ngayon pa lang, nararamdaman na natin yung epekto ng init sa fruits natin kahit hindi pa natin nararating yung dry season sa April and May (Right now, we already felt the effects of the dry season even if the summer season of April and May is still far)," Miculob said during Monday’s Kapihan sa SM media forum.

Miculob reiterated the importance of having a watering mechanism in fruit farms. He said the MFC has been discussing on possible methods, like cloud seeding, to ease the ill-effects of the El Niño phenomenon.

"The older the trees, the lesser the chance that they will die; around five to 10 years. But the younger they are, the higher possibility that they will die from stress. When you're selling fruits, ang kailangang alagaan talaga ay ang trees para mamunga ng maganda," Miculob said.

He added that the region is now experiencing fruit harvesting because of a long dry season from September to October last year.

"Hindi na normal ang ating dry and wet seasons, so expected ang fruit production natin hindi na rin normal. Ang nakikitang rason is, of course, yung climate change but the El Niño season is bound to be an additional factor," he said.

He noted that last year, Davao had good production of fruits. This year, however, “we cannot project up to the end of the year because we cannot really predict kung ano yung magiging panahon."

He said small fruit players account for about 70 to 80 percent of the total number of hectares planted by fruits in the region, adding that if Davao suffers a drop in fruit production, it could be a big dent in the region’s total fruit production for the year.

"Mindanao is still way behind other regions, with an estimated rate of 10 percent to 20 percent. In a scale of 1-10, the small growers were likely rating less than five in terms of their preparedness for El Niño," he said, adding that each grower is expected to also act on his own to mitigate the effects of the long dry spell.

Small fruit growers are likely to be affected by the El Niño; hence, Miculob promoted "Market Encounter" in General Santos City on March 11 to 12 where Mindanao’s fruit industry sector will discuss marketing linkages. (JCZ/With PNA/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)