Farm production down 80%

Farm production down 80%

NOT only has the farm production in Cebu City’s mountain barangays dropped, some farmers have been forced to stop planting as El Niño continues to dry up water sources.

That was the situation described by some barangay officials and farmer association leaders.

The City Council placed 28 barangays under a state of calamity due to the ongoing extreme weather condition during its session on Wednesday, March 27, 2024.

These included Barangays Budlaan, Binaliw, Paril, Taptap, Pulangbato, Mabini, Malubog, Agsungot, Guba, Lusaran, Adlaon, Cambinocot, Pamutan, Sirao, Sapangdaku, Toong, Buhisan, Pung-ol Sibugay, Babag, Sudlon 1, Sudlon 2, Bonbon, Sinsin, Kalunasan, Buot, Tagbao, Busay and Tabunan, according to City Agriculturist Joelito Baclayon in an earlier interview.

Alliance of Cebu City Farmers Association president Casimero Pilones said some members decided not to cultivate their farms because of the lack of water.

“Gamay na lang ang farmers nga naa karoy tanom kay wala nay ikabubo (There are only a few farmers left who still have crops because there is no more water to irrigate them),” said Pilones in a text message to SunStar Cebu on Sunday, March 31.

In the last week of February, the weather bureau Pagasa declared Cebu under a dry spell. A month later, Pagasa announced that Cebu was undergoing drought.

Malubog Barangay Captain Dennis Dabuco said farmers in his barangay chose to save their remaining seeds and wait for the rainy season.

Pagasa announced on March 7 that the El Niño Southern Oscillation may return to neutral conditions during the second quarter of the year or from April to June.

Pagasa also said it is monitoring an increasing probability of La Niña to develop from June to August.

Dabuco said the farmers’ major concern is the lack of water.

Cambinocot Barangay Captain Reynaldo Lauron said several farmers in his barangay have also stopped farming since they have been losing income.

Cambinocot has one of the largest farm lands in the city.

Lauron, however, was not able to provide the number of farmers who temporarily stopped farming.

Pilones said farm production has dropped around 80 percent since February.

He said farmers used to harvest 1,000 kilos of eggplants before El Niño, but now they can barely harvest 200 kilos.

Lauron said the same is being experienced in their barangay.

“Wala na nakatubo ang mga tanom ug ang kasagaran nangamatay (the crops no longer grow and most of them have died),” he said.

Cebu City Farmer Federation president Elecio Cantano, in a separate interview on Sunday, said members of their group have no choice but to continue growing crops despite the extreme weather condition.

Cantano’s group is composed of farmers from Adlaon.

Barangay Adlaon has the most number of farmers registered in the City Agriculture Department with close to 1,000 farmers.

Although their produce has declined, the farmers have shifted to planting heat-resistant crops like okra, corn and cauliflower.

Lauron said the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) has deployed a mobile siphon tank (MST) in their barangay to get clean water from the river.

In Malubog, Dabuco said they are coordinating with the MCWD for the distribution of water in the barangay.

The declaration of the state of calamity means barangays can now use their quick response fund, said City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Harold Alcontin in a previous interview.

This also means the City can use its local disaster risk reduction and management fund (LDRRMF) to address the problem.

However, the council deferred the approval of the annual investment plan for the LDRRMF amounting to P96.94 million, saying there is a need to discuss the budget further.

Of the P96.94 million requested by the executive department, P80 million is intended for agriculture expenditures like purchase of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, supplies, tools and equipment, and the conduct of an information campaign.

Lauron, for his part, said they have to rely on the City Government for assistance since they don’t have funds to help farmers.

On Tuesday, March 26, state meteorologist Jhomer Eclarino of the weather bureau Pagasa warned the public that the heat index in Cebu in the coming months may reach the “dangerous” 51 degrees Celsius level.

A heat index that ranges from 42 to 51 degrees Celsius is dangerous because it can cause heat cramps and exhaustion, while prolonged exposure may even lead to a heat stroke, he said.

The heat index or “feels-like” temperature combines air temperature and humidity to indicate how hot the weather feels to the human body.

Eclarino attributed the rise in the heat index to the drought caused by the El Niño as well as the ongoing dry hot summer.

“We declared officially the start of warm, dry season or what we call ‘tag-init (summer) sa Pilipinas.’ At the same time we are also monitoring the ongoing El Niño phenomenon... thus, we can feel more the intense heat,” he said.

Pagasa declared the end of the northeast monsoon, also known as amihan, last March 22, signaling the beginning of the summer season.

The Philippines experiences only two seasons: dry and wet. Despite the absence of a specific summer season, Filipinos commonly refer to the dry season as such.

He said that based on historical data, Cebu always experiences the highest temperatures in May.

Eclarino said that on May 31, 2010, which was also during an El Niño, the province recorded its highest surface temperature of 39 degrees Celsius and a heat index of 49 degrees Celsius.

He said Cebu and nine other provinces in the Visayas are currently experiencing a drought.

The other provinces are Antique, Biliran, Eastern Samar, Guimaras, Iloilo, Leyte, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and Samar.

Although El Niño has transitioned from a strong and mature state to a moderate one, he said its effects will still be felt in the next two months.

He said drought is classified as an extended dry condition, either with five consecutive months of below-normal rainfall or three months of significantly below-normal rainfall.

Pagasa previously defined below-normal rainfall as 20 to 60 percent less than the usual amount, while way-below-normal rainfall indicates more than a 60 percent decrease from the norm.

Dr. Eugenia Mercedes Cañal, regional epidemiologist of Department of Health 7, advised the public to observe safety measures amid the intensive heat.

She urged the public to avoid going outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., wear sunscreen when going outside and always hydrate with water.

Eclarino also forecast calm weather for the Visayas region from the last week of March through the first week of April.

He said they don’t expect any typhoon or low-pressure area to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility during this period.

“That is good news that we are typhoon-free or tropical cyclone-free in the (next) two weeks,” he said. / JJL, KJF


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