THE Philippines, particularly the Western Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula, has so far incurred P151.3 million worth of damage and losses due to the effects of El Niño, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said Thursday, February 8, 2024.
In a statement, the DA said 3,923 farmers and 3,291 hectares of agricultural land were affected by dry spell in the two regions.
Estimates on possible production losses are at 6,618 metric tons of palay and corn.
“Most of the damage and losses were incurred on rice and corn that are on their reproductive stage,” the DA’s latest El Niño Bulletin said.
To help farmers cope with the effects of dry spell, the DA distributed over P1 million worth of vegetable seeds in Western Visayas, while procuring planting materials for high value crops that need less water for given in Zamboanga Peninsula.
These actions are on top of DA’s cloud seeding operations, pest control management, and promotion of wider use of drought-resistance crop varieties to help regions experiencing water shortage.
“The DA has adopted an alternate wetting-and-drying system that reduced water consumption in rice fields. The agency is also checking use of solar-powered irrigation systems to bring water to farms that need them most,” Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel said.
“DA is also studying areas for the feasibility of using shallow tube wells in rainfed areas. The agency also plans to endorse affected farmers to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Labor and Employment for other forms of assistance, including financial support,” he added.
But Laurel assured that the country has sufficient rice supply until June 2024, noting the recent imports and the upcoming harvest that peaks in March and April.
He said the sufficient supply of rice ensures a stable price of the country’s main food staple despite the El Niño phenomenon within the said period.
But Laurel said prices may stay elevated through September this year, due to concerns over El Nino’s impact on global rice supply and heightened demand for the grain that, consequently, is keeping international prices high.
“We have enough rice supply so prices should remain stable through the first half of the year. Our priority now is market stability,” he said.
Last week, the Philippines signed a five-year rice supply deal with Vietnam that ensures a source of 1.5 million to 2.0 million metric tons of rice a year.
A total 750,000 metric tons of imported rice have arrived in December and January, buttressing local inventory.
“What we need to guard against now are profiteers who may attempt to exploit the situation by using El Nino as an excuse to hoard rice supply to push local prices to unreasonably high levels,” Laurel said. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)