By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
THE agriculture sector of Iloilo province has lost 24,692 metric tons (MT) of rice valued at P401 million as the “dry spell” caused by El Niño phenomenon continues to hit the country.
In an interview on Tuesday, Assistant Provincial Agriculturist Elias Sandig reported that as of Feb 28, 2019, almost 13,630 rice farmers from 32 towns in the province are affected by the dry spell caused by El Niño.
“Based on our report, 11,000 hectares are affected. Out of the total number, 1,575 hectares of rice farms were totally damaged while 9,518 hectares were partially damaged,” Sandig said.
The affected towns were mostly “highly vulnerable areas” from Southern Iloilo where the rainy season is only four to six months, according to Sandig.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Western Visayas is validating the standing crops and the total damage caused by the dry spell.
In a phone interview, DA Regional Executive Director Remelyn Recoter said they are considering the high-value crops in the region, which are vulnerable to rain, before initiating cloud-seeding operations.
“Before mag-cloud seeding, i-validate pa kon ano ang standing crops. Ang gina-consider namon sa cloud seeding, ano ang mga standing crops ang kontra sa ulan,” she said.
Recoter added that they cannot instantly conduct cloud seeding since sunlight is favorable to mangoes in Guimaras and watermelon in Central Iloilo.
“Ginabalanse ta anay kay ang sa humay, almost harvest na ang mga standing crop compared mo siya
sa losses sa mangga and sa Central Iloilo damo may watermelon,” she said.
While Negros Occidental has already requested for a cloud seeding, Recoter said they need to consider several factors including, seedable clouds.
“Ang seedable clouds, kon wala seedable clouds indi man pwede ka-cloud seeding,” she stressed.
But Recoter assured that they already prepositioned assets for the rehabilitation of affected areas, particularly the buffer stocks of seeds for the next cropping.
“We have regular buffer stocks both of rice and corn that are available in times of calamity like this,” she said.
The agriculture department also has P2.5 million for cloud seeding.
In Iloilo Province, Sandig said that they are still waiting for reports from the municipalities of the total farmers affected by the dry spell.
Sandig fears that farmers who planted their rice sometime in January and February might also be affected if the dry spell continues.
“Ang naapektuhan usually rice crops planted in November and December, pero may late pa nagtanom in January and February. Kung malawig, basi madala pa sila sa damage,” he lamented.
Once the Sangguniang Panlalawigan declares a state of calamity in the province, Sandig said they can further assist the farmers using the calamity fund.
In Negros Occidental, P6.11 million worth of rice crops in the seven barangays in Cauayan, Negros Occidental were also lost due to the dry spell, according to the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC)-6.