File photo
File photo

As temperatures rise, farmers seek help on water, fertilizer

FARMERS in Cebu City have asked the government to lay down concrete plans before the African swine fever (ASF) and the El Niño weather phenomenon damage their farms and livelihood.

State weather bureau Pagasa has said there is a high possibility of El Niño—which makes below-average rainfall more likely—occurring in July.

Even now, groups of farmers from the city’s upland barangays already expressed their need for support and assistance from the government, especially in the matter of water supply, with a local government official already eyeing the trucking of water up to the barangays as the heat index hit 39°C last Saturday, March 25.

The farmer leaders hope to hear about comprehensive programs and measures involving the handling of ASF and the dry season during the Food Security Summit that the Cebu City Government sets to hold on April 25 and April 26, 2023.

This month, the Bureau of Animal Industry said the highly contagious disease in pigs, that does not harm human health, had been detected in six areas in Cebu, including Cebu City. Cebu City officials last week said the infected pigs, numbering eight, came from a single backyard farm.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama earlier said the summit aims to create a Food Security Master Plan to ensure there will be no shortage of food supply in the city.

Rama plans to secure the participation of producers from backyard farms and agro-industries so the City can come up with a Food Security Master Plan that would serve as the foundation to ensure the sustainability of food supply and stable prices.

Main concern

Alliance of Cebu City Farmers Association president Casimero Pilones said Wednesday, March 29, that their main concern now is the possible scarcity of water.

Pilones, who just came from their weekly meeting with fellow farmers before the interview with SunStar Cebu, said some of the members of their association are worried that the water supply may not last for a longer period if the weather will remain dry in the following weeks.

“Tubig gyud. Mayta mahatagan og solusyon (Water is the main problem. We hope it will be addressed),” said Pilones.

Also on Wednesday, Cebu City Farmers Federation president Elecio Cantano said the farmers need support from the government, considering the growing need for fertilizer and medicines for farm animals.

Cantano also hoped the assistance for the farmers will be discussed during the summit.

Seeming shortage

Jerone Castillo, special assistant to Rama, said the summit is one mechanism to address the issues on inflation and food security.

Castillo said the master plan will serve as a guide, especially in times where there is a “seeming shortage” of supply.

“There are times when there is a seeming shortage of supply while the demand is increasing, which usually results in increase of prices of goods... This is also caused by hoarders, speculators, opportunists,” said Castillo in Cebuano.

Cebu City Councilor Pastor Alcover, committee on agriculture chairman, told SunStar Cebu Wednesday that the main concern of the farmers now is the water supply, which prompted him to write a letter to the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD), asking the utility if the City can open water hydrants and have the water delivered to the upland barangays.

This concern was raised during a meeting he had with some of the farmer leaders last Tuesday.

He is set to formally hand the letter to MCWD within the week.

Alcover also encouraged the farmers to plant heat-resistant crops to limit the possible damage due to the weather condition.

Based on the Cebu City Agriculture Department’s records, there are around 13,000 farmers from the 28 upland barangays who produce vegetables, fruit crops and livestock, among others.

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