El Niño farm damage hits P5.9 billion

A farmer guides his carabao on dry and cracked farmland in San Juan town, Batangas, April 18, 2010. — REUTERS/ROMEO RANOCO

AGRICULTURAL damage caused by El Niño has been estimated at P5.9 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

In a bulletin, the DA said that volume losses of farmed commodities was 255,467 metric tons (MT), with rice the most affected crop, accounting for 53.2% of the total.

The dry conditions brought about by El Niño has impacted 113,585 farmers and fisherfolk. The farmland affected by the dry spells was 104,402 hectares.

Damage and loss to rice amounted to 123,350 MT, valued at P3.14 billion. The affected farmland spanned 58,226 hectares.

The DA said that 67.67%, or 39,402 hectares were partially damaged, while 32.33% or 18,824 hectares sustained total crop damage.

The hardest-hit province was Iloilo, where losses were valued at between P500 million and P600 million, followed by Palawan at P350 million to P500 million.

“Most of the damage and losses were to rice in the reproductive and maturity stages,” it added.

Palay production during the first quarter dropped 2% to 4.69 million MT, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

The quarter’s result was slightly lower than the 4.82 million MT the PSA projected based on the standing crop as of March 1.

Damage to corn was estimated at 98,937 MT and valued at P1.76 billion. The affected area planted to corn was 39,407 hectares, or 29.8% of the total.

The DA added that the total volume loss for high value crops was 26,826 MT over 6,744 hectares of farmland. The value of the losses was estimated at P958.06 million, or 16.23% of the total.

Damage to fisheries was valued at P22.83 million, with 2,261 fisherfolk affected.

The DA said that it provided P2.18 billion worth of assistance to address the adverse effects of El Niño.

PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration), the government weather service, said El Niño is currently weakening, with its effects projected to last until August.

PAGASA said that about 41 provinces were in drought as of the end of April, with 23 undergoing dry spells.

On Monday, Science and Technology Secretary Renato U. Solidum, Jr. said that drought conditions will persist as El Niño into La Niña.

PAGASA said there is a 62% probability that La Niña will develop between June and August. — Adrian H. Halili