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El Niño to damage P21.8 billion worth of crops in first-half 2016

By Mary Grace Padin

Drought caused by El Niño could slash first-semester palay output by 900,000 metric tons (MT) and corn production by 500,000 MT, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Based on computation done by the BusinessMirror using the National Food Authority’s (NFA) buying price, the value of the 1.4 million MT of rice and corn that may be damaged by El Niño could reach P21.8 billion.

Christopher Morales, officer in charge of the DA’s Field Operation Service, told the BusinessMirror the department’s projection does not yet take into account the two typhoons that hit the country in the last quarter of 2015.

“The estimated damage may be lower as rainfall brought by the last two typhoons that hit the country increased water in our dams,” Morales said at the sidelines of the Special Committee on Climate Change’s meeting at the House of Representatives on Monday.

El Niño started affecting the country in March last year, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

As early as May 2014, however, Pagasa had already warned that the Philippines could be affected by El Niño. Data from the DA showed that as of August 13, El Niño had already damaged P3.32 billion worth of crops. The corn sector bore the brunt of the extreme weather event and recorded losses amounting to P2.21 billion, while rice farmers lost P1.09 billion.

Earlier, Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Edilberto de Luna said farmers’ apprehension over the ill effects of El Niño has caused them to forego planting, which could cause farm output to drop this year.

Farmers have been apprehensive over the availability of irrigation water for their crops. The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) cut off irrigation water for Central Luzon farms in May after Angat Dam’s water level breached the 180-meter critical level.

Last October NWRB agreed to allocate irrigation water for 14,000 rice farms upon the request of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

On Tuesday the agency attached to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources revealed that it has agreed to increase the NIA’s allocation for irrigation water to 36 cubic meters per second (cms) this month from 35 cms in January.

“Farmers in Bulacan and some parts of Pampanga are also assured that sufficient amount of water will be apportioned in their whole cropping calendar. However, allocation for irrigation may decrease as the harvesting season approaches,” NWRB said in a statement.

The agency also increased the allocation of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System to 44 cms in February from 42 cms. Despite the increase in allocation, the NWRB urged the public to continue their water-conservation measures.

“Everyone must not be complacent in the utilization of the precious water resource because there is a possibility that the El Niño may extend beyond June 2016,” NWRB said.

The DA had earlier requested funds from the national government to mitigate the ill effects of El Niño. Morales, however, said the P2.1 billion it sought from the Department of Budget and Management has not yet been released.

“The DA has projected we are going to need P3 billion to roll out El Niño-mitigation measures. We already have a regular allocation of P900 million for 2016, but this is not enough. We have requested the P2.1 billion to augment the deficit,” he said.

Morales said the DA hopes the budget could be released before February so the agency could roll out interventions to boost farm output.

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