BONTOC, Mt. Province -- While still reeling from the damage caused by the long drought to their farms in the first quarter of the year, farmers in two agricultural rich towns here complained of the sudden presence of new pests which are now destroying their vegetables.

Farmers in the far flung eastern municipality of Paracelis observed the presence and the increasing number of "giant snails" (beloloko) eating almost all plants in their backyard gardens. The farmers said string beans, eggplants, papaya are among their garden plants that were initially destroyed by these snail pests.

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Paracelis farmers said they never had this snail pest problem before.

As one of the control measures of the snail infestation, the Office of the Provincial Agriculture recommended that farmers to manually collect the snails, pound them and make composed fertilizer which is rich in protein.

Mary Buanzi of the Agriculture office said "giant snails" can be collected in the late afternoon when they usually came out.

Giant snails are said to be voracious and can increase easily as they lay eggs in thousands.

In the vegetable producing town of Bauko, some farmers complained of a pest, which agriculture officials identified as whitefly, wreaking havoc to their vegetable farms.

Bauko farmers observed that the whitefly sip the back of the potato, beans, squash and other vegetable leaves which eventually make the plants die.

To control the whitefly infestation, Buanzi advised farmers to shift to organic farming practices saying the unexpected whitefly pest might be developed as a result of the continued use of chemicals in their vegetable gardens.

Buanzi said continuous watering of the vegetable plants could also control the whitefly pest infestation.

Earlier, agriculture officials advised farmers to prepare for the occurrence of pests and diseases as a result of the prolonged dry spell due to the El Niño phenomenon. (Andrew Doga-ong)