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Typhoon affected 10% of annual rice production

THE current rice crop in areas affected by Supertyphoon Yolanda accounts for roughly 10 percent of the country’s annual rice production, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said on Thursday. The institute and the Department of Agriculture are now assessing the extent of the damage and the potential impact on palay or rice production in areas devastated by Yolanda.

Samarendu Mohanty, IRRI economist and head of IRRI’s social science and policy arm, said it would take some time to determine the full extent of the damage. 

Fortunately, Mohanty said, most of the rice crop in these regions had been harvested before the typhoon hit.

Leyte, a Category-2 rice-producing province, has more than 100,000 hectares of rice land. Between 2000 and 2009, the province posted the third-biggest increase in rice production among all provinces, behind Nueva Ecija and Iloilo.

Leyte also has the highest average annual growth rate in terms of yield-per-hectare output.

Irri Deputy Director General for Communications and Partnerships V. Bruce J. Tolentino, who had just attended an assessment meeting with agriculture officials, said Yolanda struck in the period between planting seasons in Leyte.

Most farms had already completed their wet-season harvest and were just starting to prepare for the dry-season crop, he said.

“The most serious issues would arise from extensive losses resulting from the storm surge—in farm machinery, storage, housing, and damage to roads and irrigation. These would need replacement and rehabilitation,” he said. 

Access to markets is constrained and household food stocks are down to zero, causing an increase in local food prices.

During typhoons, rice crops are destroyed because of severe floods that sometimes take several days to subside.

The country, which is visited by an average of 18 typhoons every year, is now experiencing more powerful typhoons, which scientists link to climate change.

To address the challenge faced by Filipino rice farmers, IRRI developed and released climate change-ready rice varieties, such as “scuba” or flood-tolerant rice, which can withstand submergence for up to two weeks.

About 5 million farmers across Asia are now using scuba rice, also known by its local variety name submarino, which is one of 101 improved rice varieties, in the Philippines that IRRI has released.

As part of its response to help people affected by the typhoon, Irri, with the agriculture department, would provide submarino seeds to farmers.

IRRI continues to work on making rice more resistant to extreme weather conditions.

It is now studying how rice can thrive despite salty soil, hot or cold weather and drought. 

IRRI is also putting together donations in cash and in for Yolanda’s victims.

In Photo: Typhoon survivors from Tacloban get off a C-130 plane at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City. These victims of Supertyhoon Yolanda said they will take their chances in Metro Manila or look for their relatives, since most of their belongings have been destroyed. (Nonie Reyes)






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