By Lilybeth Ison, PNA
MANILA — The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Friday estimated at PHP7.96 billion the damages and losses caused by the El Niño phenomenon or the prolonged dry spell.
During the launch of Pilipinas Agila Tires in Ortigas, Pasig City, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol said the El Niño has damaged 277,890 hectares of farmlands planted with an estimated 268,656 metric tons (MT) of crops, mostly rice and corn, affecting 247,610 farmers and fisherfolks.
For rice alone, the DA recorded PHP4.04 billion in losses, with the weather phenomenon affecting 140,387 farmers and 144,202 hectares of farms, which could have yielded 191,761 MT, or 0.96 percent of the target annual production of the crop.
Damages to corn, on the other hand, were valued at PHP3.89 billion, with the El Niño affecting 105,937 farmers and 133,007 hectares of farms. Volume loss was placed at 254,766 MT, or 2.95 percent of the annual production target.
Piñol said despite the impact of the El Niño on rice and corn production, their respective production targets can still be met — 20 million MT for rice and 8.64 million MT for corn.
He said the DA has already provided support to farmers and fisherfolk affected by the El Niño, releasing PHP360 million in insurance payments and emergency loans.
To date, Piñol said the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) has allotted PHP95.875 million in financial assistance under the Survival and Recovery Assistance (SURE) program to benefit some 3,835 affected farmers.
In addition, the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) has also paid PHP264.515 million to 24,119 farmers.
Cloud seeding operations have also been conducted to provide artificial rain to farmers who need rain for their crops. Region 2 (Cagayan Valley) has conducted 17 sorties, which led to a rise in the water levels of Magat Dam.
Meanwhile, Regions 11 (Davao Region) and 12 (Soccsksargen) have conducted five sorties over agricultural and watershed areas in Davao del Sur and North Cotabato.
Seed reserves for rice, corn and high-value crops have also been prepositioned to be provided to farmers who will opt to replant this coming wet season.
“As far as the impact of El Niño on agri production is concerned, it is just minimal. We can cope with it. I’m positive we can meet production target for the year,” Piñol said. (PNA)