DA-12 looking at alternative palay areas in preparation to El Niño

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 30 Sept) – The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Region 12 is working on the opening of “alternative” palay production areas in a bid to offset the projected reduction in local harvests due to the impact of the looming strong El Niño Phenomenon.

Amalia Jayag-Datukan, DA Region 12 executive director, said they are currently evaluating some irrigated farm areas in parts of Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato provinces for the planting of palay within the next few weeks.

She said the targeted farmlands are located in portions of the Liguasan Marsh that are covered by the two provinces.

“We’re continuously looking for other alternative production areas so we can sustain our production targets,” she said.

Based on the DA-12’s forecasts, the region’s palay harvests could drop by a total of 98,473 metric tons (MT) this year as a result of the onslaught of the El Niño, which was predicted to begin next month and last until February next year.

It expects the area’s total palay harvests to reach 1,316,809 MT by yearend or about seven percent lower than its 1,415,282 MT target under its Food Self-Sufficiency Program.

In terms of palay production area, the agency expects a reduction of 17,679 hectares or from its target of 358,567 hectares to 340,888 hectares due to the El Niño.

Despite such projection, Datukan said they are not expecting any rice shortage in the region in the coming months.

She said the region remains rice self-sufficient and they anticipate enough rice supplies in the local markets during the El Niño period.

“We will still be 120 percent rice self-sufficient so that will not likely affect the availability of rice supplies in the markets,” she said.

In 2014, Region 12 produced a total of 1.364 million MT of palay and a self-sufficiency rating of 128 percent.

Such figure was equivalent to 31.68 percent of Mindanao’s rice production and 7.1 percent of the entire country.

Based on rainfall data released to DA-12 by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, some parts of the region already posted “way below normal” levels as of the end of August.

It said the rainfall level in the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato will drop to below normal and in Sarangani to way below normal starting the end of the month.

Datukan said the provinces of Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato will experience dry spell this month that will intensify to drought from October to February.

She said North Cotabato will experience dry condition starting this month until January and dry spell by February.

Dry spell was described as three consecutive months of below normal or 21 to 60 percent reduction from average rainfall conditions or two consecutive months of way below normal or more than 60 percent reduction from average rainfall conditions.

Drought was defined as consecutive months of way below normal or more than 60 percent reduction from average or five consecutive months of below normal or 21 to 60 percent reduction from average rainfall condition.