DRY spell from December last year to April this year brought damages to animals and rice plantations in Negros Occidental province, amounting to P28 million, records of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) and Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO) show.

OPA chief Igmedio Tabianan said they recorded P18.022 million in destruction to crops, including 219.15 hectares of destroyed rice plantations and 204.19 hectares of damaged areas.

Affected areas are in San Carlos City, Hinigaran, Hinobaan, and Candoni towns.

Tabianan said the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) has been releasing checks to farmers for insurance coverage of their damaged crops, covering P12 million out of the P18 million damage.

More checks will be released to affected farmers on April 18.

Tabianan said the P5 million in insurance premiums paid for by the province to the PCIC covers 10,000 farmers.

“That's why we have been encouraging farmers to enlist with the PCIC to minimize their losses in case of calamities," the OPA chief said.

Provincial Veterinarian Renante Decena said the estimated P10 million damage recorded by their office represents one percent of the total cost of production of animal products.

Based on the monitoring on the qualitative effect of the dry spell, animals have been affected because of meager grasses for their food. Low hatchability has also been reported among fighting cocks and layers.

“At the Panaad livestock arena, we have the seminars for farmers on how to mitigate climate change," Decena said.

Moreover, Tabianan said the province has been preparing to conduct cloud seeding operation for 40 flying hours after the Panaad sa Negros Festival which ends on April 19.

The Department of Agriculture will fund the operation while province will provide a counterpart fund.

There is a need to mitigate the effect of the dry spell and help farmers prepare for the next cropping, Tabianan said.

The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) had been rationing water to rice farmers in southern Negros Occidental as the Bago River Irrigation System (BRIS) is slowly drying up due to the dry spell.

"The water level of the BRIS has dropped by 30 centimeters," said Engineer Rita Suarez of the NIA Negros Occidental Irrigation Management Office.

Suarez said they have minimal water supply to provide for the rice farms in the cities of Bago and Bacolod, and Murcia town.