The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) are implementing measures to alleviate the impact of El Niño phenomenon on the local rice production.
DA will maximize and optimize the production in non-vulnerable areas, activate the provincial disaster task force, buffer stocking of seeds, and implement an information and education campaign.
“Since Negros Oriental is insufficient in terms of rice production, our priority is to maximize production in areas that are least affected by El Niño,” said DA Provincial Agriculture Program coordinating officer Alejandro Rafal during the recent Kapihan sa PIA program.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that the province produces 37,000 metric tons of rice every year, which is equivalent to only 28 percent rice sufficiency rate.
Rafal said this is below the 117,000 metric tons of rice requirement needed to feed the 1.4 million population of the province.
The low level of rice production is attributed to the province’s topography, which has less areas suitable for rice planting.
To address the gap in the rice production, Negros Oriental gets its supply from other provinces to meet the local food demand.
The DA identified the following areas as highly vulnerable to drought: Ayungon Jimalalud, Bindoy, Manjuyod, Basay, Siaton, and Bayawan City.
“Ang katong areas not mentioned, anhi namo banatan in terms of rice production. (We will intensify our rice production efforts in the areas that are not mentioned),” Rafal said.
DA has allotted P44 million for the procurement of 8,800 bags of hybrid rice, vegetable, and corn seeds as buffer stock in preparation for the dry season planting that will begin in April.
The agriculture department has also allocated P55,985,959 for the procurement of fertilizers to be distributed to farmers to boost crop productivity.
Financial assistance amounting to P261 million will be given by DA to 32,000 rice farmers in Negros Oriental as livelihood assistance, with each farmer receiving P5,000.
Rafal said the DA is closely coordinating with NIA on irrigation projects that will ensure uninterrupted water supply in agricultural lands.
NIA has restored 47 irrigation systems across the province last year as part of their mitigation measures against El Niño, said NIA Negros Oriental Senior Irrigators Development Officer Maria Fe Eurango during the Kapihan.
Eurango assured that the irrigation systems in areas affected by El Niño are functional.
“For the 1st District, we have 39 functional irrigation systems, while for the 3rd District, we have 39 including the three small river irrigation systems,” Eurango said.
Two of the three small river irrigation systems are located in Zamboanguita while the other one is in Dauin.
NIA has also shifted the planting for the first cropping season of their irrigators association.
“The first cropping season, which was supposed to start in November, was moved earlier in October so that kung mo-grabe na gud ang El Niño by March, ang atong mga farmer will start harvesting by first week of March so dili na sila maapektuhan sa El Niño. (The first cropping season, which was supposed to start in November, was moved to October. In case the El Niño will worsen by March, our farmers will be able to harvest their crops and won’t be affected by it anymore),” she added.
NIA has also mapped out farm areas that are vulnerable to El Niño as the agency will push for planting of alternate crops in areas that would not be able to sustain rice production.
Eurango said farmers in areas where rice farming is not sustainable due to El Niño will be linked to other agencies for an alternate form of livelihood.
Weather bureau PAGASA on January 24 said a “strong” and “mature” El Niño may last until February, while the regular phenomenon will persist until May.
During this period, El Niño increases the likelihood of below to normal rainfall conditions, which could cause dry spells and droughts in some areas of the country.
The national government has allotted P30.8 billion in additional funds this year to DA to support palay producers and stabilize the price of rice to help farmers cope with El Niño. | NWI