Rains bring hope to farmers

Over 300 Davao City farmers affected by dry conditions caused by El Niño; Bountiful fruit season expected in August to September amid cash crop damage
ENDURING EFFORTS. Enduring the blistering heat, farmers in Barangay Riverside, Calinan, Davao City, persevere in preparing their crops for the upcoming planting season. Serving as the bedrock of our agricultural sector, these committed individuals guarantee a reliable stream of fresh produce to satisfy our fundamental requirements.
ENDURING EFFORTS. Enduring the blistering heat, farmers in Barangay Riverside, Calinan, Davao City, persevere in preparing their crops for the upcoming planting season. Serving as the bedrock of our agricultural sector, these committed individuals guarantee a reliable stream of fresh produce to satisfy our fundamental requirements. ARJOY CENIZA

"Lipay kaayo mi nga nag-ulan gahapon. Ikaduhang adlaw pa lang gyud nag-ulan diri (We're so happy it rained yesterday. It's only the second day of rain)," said Bae Arlene Mongcal of the Matigsalug tribe. Her half-hectare vegetable farm at Purok Onse in Buda, Marilog District was damaged by the dry conditions due to the El Niño phenomenon.

Her family grew squash, tomatoes, pechay, Malabar spinach (alugbati), and corn on the farm, but they didn't survive the intense heat in March and April.

Arlene, a mother of five, explained,

Maski bugnaw na among lugar diri, dili makaya ang init. Pati ang among balon ug sapa nahubas tanan. Daplin mi sa sapa nagpuyo, sa kadugayan namo'g puyo, dili mahutdan og tubig ang balon ug sapa. Karon ra gyud namo na experience mahubasan, nagliki ang ilalom sa balon. Ang mais nangalaya, mura na'g sibuyas.

 (Despite the cold here, we can't handle the heat. Even our well and stream have dried up. We live by the river, believing that as long as we are here, the well and river will never run dry. But now, for the first time, we've experienced the bottom of the balloon cracking. The corn withered and  looks like onions).

She noted that her neighbors' farms also suffered the same fate. 

Selling their homegrown vegetables helped supplement their meager family income, which mainly relies on her husband's salary as a weeder at Del Monte farm in Bukidnon. Instead of buying vegetables, Arlene's family would harvest what they needed from their farm. But that is no longer possible today.

With the weather improving, Arlene needs to find resources to pay for labor to clean and till the land and plant seedlings again. Her husband can only work on their farm during his Sunday day-offs.

However, because three of her children are beneficiaries of the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program), she is not entitled to any additional government assistance to restore her vegetable farm.

"Dili man taga-bulan ang 4Ps. Sa upat ka bulan, ka usa ra masudlan akong ATM ug P5,000. Short-short gyud mi (The 4Ps assistance is not monthly. I received P5,000 only once in four months. We often fall short)," Arlene added.

Impact

Over 300 farmers in Davao City have been impacted by the dry conditions caused by the El Niño phenomenon. While cash crops like corn, rice, and vegetables will need two to three months to recover, there is a silver lining: a bountiful harvest of fruits, including durian, mangosteen, lanzones, and rambutan, is expected in August to September, thanks to the regular rains that started in May.

Edgardo Haspe, head of the Davao City Agriculturist’s Office (CAgrO), in an interview at his office on Monday, May 27, 2024, said that while more than 300 farmers have been affected, the extent of the damage to their crops is still being determined.

“Nagsugod na atoang final assessment kung unsay extent sa damage sa cash crops nato. Nag-create ta og team para sa assessment (We have started our final assessment to determine the extent of the damage to our cash crops. We created a team for that),” he told SunStar Davao.

Since the affected barangays are in far-flung sitios in the Marilog, Tugbok, and Paquibato districts, Haspe said the assessment would take until mid-June to complete.

To help ease the burden, CAgrO is processing the purchase of seeds and fertilizers, which will be distributed to the affected farmers.   

The planting season runs from March to May. The farmers risked planting in March and April, but their crops didn’t survive due to the intense heat. There were only two or three days of rain in April compared to the many days with high temperatures.

According to a City Information Office (CIO) report, as of April, a total of 108 farmers in Davao City have been affected by El Niño, with reported crop damage amounting to P5,161,611. Approximately 93.33 hectares of crops were damaged by the dry spell in the Tugbok, Marilog, Calinan, and Paquibato districts. However, the extent of the crop damage is expected to increase once the final assessment is completed.

RIPE EXPECTATIONS. With the recent steady rains in Davao City, fruit trees have burst into full bloom, promising a plentiful harvest in August and September.
RIPE EXPECTATIONS. With the recent steady rains in Davao City, fruit trees have burst into full bloom, promising a plentiful harvest in August and September. FILE PHOTO/ARJOY CENIZA

Abundance

With the recent consistent rains in Davao City, more fruit trees have begun flowering. 

Haspe said, “Grabe ang pamulak sa mga prutas sa Davao. Mao ning abundant ta karong tuiga. Ang peak sa harvest kay late August to September. Daghan kaayo ta’g prutas ana (Fruits are blooming in Davao. This year, we're abundant. The peak harvest is late August to September. We'll have plenty of fruits by then).”

Lawyer Onnie Partoza, owner of the nine-hectare Partoza Durian Farms in Tugbok District, confirmed this, stating,

Ang longkong is namumunga every other year pero ngayon abundant, pati yung durian. Maraming bulaklak, abundant talaga. Nakikinita ko nang babagsak ang presyo sa dami ng mga prutas this August and September.

(Longkong used to bear fruit every other year, but now it's abundant, along with durian. There are so many flowers, truly abundant. I foresee prices dropping with the abundance of fruits this August and September).”

Partoza mentioned that his farm survived this year's dry spell with sufficient water from sources like a creek and deep well. However, in the past two droughts, he lost several durian fruit trees.

“Wala kaming naging problema yung katatapos lang na dry spell. Dilig lang talaga. Kailangan talaga nila ng tubig. Several months nang init, stress talaga ang mga fruit trees. Pero ilang araw umulan, naglabasan ang mga bulaklak. Masaya ngayong Kadayawan, maraming prutas ( We didn't face any issues during the recent dry spell. We just needed to water the trees regularly.The fruit trees really needed water. After several months of heat, the trees were under a lot of stress. But after a few days of rain, the flowers bloomed. It will be a joyful Kadayawan with plenty of fruits),” he added.

Aside from durian, and longkong (a lanzones variety), the Partoza Durian Farms also grows cacao and mangosteen.

ARJOY CENIZA

Cost

Despite the expected increase in durian supply in August and September, Haspe cautioned that it won't be sold as cheaply as in previous years when it costs as low as P20 per kilo.

“Our durian supply will rise, but our export supply to China falls short. We can't expect prices to drop because there's a demand for our durian overseas,” he explained in the vernacular.

Haspe noted that China's requirement is 50,000 metric tons, but local exporters only managed to supply 16,000 metric tons last year. This is per the bilateral agreement on Philippine fresh durian protocol to China, signed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. during his state visit to China on January 3, 2023.

Currently, Davao City boasts 19 local durian exporters and 21 packing plants, all certified with good agriculture practices by the Department of Agriculture.

On May 23, CAgrO organized a Durian Forum at the Grande Men Seng Hotel, attended by about 100 stakeholders. The event delved into technology, market demand and trends, and research to ensure durian quality for export, enhance protocols, and sustain the three-year bilateral agreement with China.

Haspe also mentioned that Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia are competitors of Davao City's durian market, but emphasized, “Our durian tastes better because our land is very suitable compared to other countries.”

Partoza said even during the peak durian season, the price of the fruit will range from P80 to P100 per kilo. “That is good for the farmers,” he said.

Reality bites

While Davao City boasts an ample supply of fruits, it grapples with shortages in rice and vegetables.

In terms of fruits, we have enough supply. But with food, dili gyud ta secured kay dili man enough atong production sa Davao City, labi na sa rice nato. Sa production nato sa rice dili kaabot og 10 days, hurot na.

( In terms of fruits, we have plenty. But we're not secure with food because our production in Davao City, especially in rice, isn't sufficient. Our rice production lasts less than 10 days, then it's gone),” Haspe said.

Davao City requires 10,000 sacks of rice daily, a demand local rice farmers can't meet. Hence, the city sources rice from Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur, and other countries. It has 600 hectares of irrigated rice farms in Calinan, Baguio, Marilog, and Paquibato districts, although some have been repurposed.

Moreover, Davao City produces only 10 to 20 percent of its vegetable supply, sourcing more from Kapatagan in Digos City and Bukidnon, leading to higher prices.

GREEN LIFELINE. With Davao City covering only 10 to 20 percent of its daily vegetable needs, it relies on Kapatagan in Digos City and Bukidnon for additional produce.
GREEN LIFELINE. With Davao City covering only 10 to 20 percent of its daily vegetable needs, it relies on Kapatagan in Digos City and Bukidnon for additional produce.ARJOY CENIZA

“Ang Bankerohan market, ginakuhaan sad og supply sa gulay sa mga taga Surigao ug Butuan, dako na kaayo ta’g short. Kung atong supply lang saligan, dili gyud makaya. Mao nang gakuha pud ta sa Kapatagan ug Bukidnon (Bankerohan market also supplies vegetables to Surigao and Butuan, leaving us with a significant shortage. If we rely solely on our supply, it's not enough. That's why we also source from Kapatagan and Bukidnon),” Haspe added.

SUPPLY STRAIN. As a vital vegetable hub serving not just Davao City but also Butuan and Surigao, the Bankerohan Public Market worsens the city's existing supply shortage, prompting the need for additional produce from Davao del Sur and Bukidnon.
SUPPLY STRAIN. As a vital vegetable hub serving not just Davao City but also Butuan and Surigao, the Bankerohan Public Market worsens the city's existing supply shortage, prompting the need for additional produce from Davao del Sur and Bukidnon.ARJOY CENIZA

Meanwhile, the city sources most of its fish supply from General Santos City, Davao Oriental, Malalag in Davao del Sur, and Zamboanga. However, Davao City also has fish cages for milkfish (bangus) and fish ponds for tilapia.

As the rains return to nurture the land, so too does the promise of a fruitful harvest, bringing renewed hope to the resilient farmers of Davao City. MLSA

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