Erratic weather pattern worries SouthCot agri exec; another drought feared

Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato agriculture office chief, said the province's palay and corn production may eventually slow down if the dry spell affecting some parts of Luzon and northern Mindanao would hit the area.

"The Pagasa (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) has not yet informed us anything about that but our weather pattern during the last several months had been erratic so we're carefully monitoring the situation," he said.

Legaste said the rainfall level last June was quite low but cited that rainfall during the month is lower than the July and August levels based on previous patterns.

He said that from June until the third week of this month the rainfall pattern in all but one of the province's 10 towns and lone city was considered normal.

He said only Tantangan town received rainfall which was below the normal level causing a delay in the planting of palay in rainfed farmlands in the area.

So far, he said only around 20 to 25 percent of palay areas in the town has been planted.

But Legaste said that in other parts of the province the weather condition heavily favored the corn farmers.

"The mild dry and rainy episodes have favored the growth of our corn. Right now, our initial reports from the field indicate that we're having a good cropping," he said.

The agriculture official said the corn harvest started last week in the municipalities of Banga, Sto. Nino and Norala and is expected to peak within the next two weeks.

He said farmers in Koronadal City and Tantangan town will reportedly begin to harvest their hybrid corn this week.

After the harvests, he said they expect farmers to immediately plant palay in time for the usual high rainfall level during the month of August.

"We're just hoping that the normal weather pattern will continue because once the rainfall level in August will drop below the average, then we will be experiencing another drought," he added.

South Cotabato is presently one of the country's top corn producers, posting an average yield of 375,000 metric tons yearly.

ut agriculture officials cited that the province's production had been affected by the two occurrences of the El Nino Phenomenon or dry spells experienced by the province since 2005 that destroyed millions worth of crops and livestock.

The unusually dry period during the early part of 2005 destroyed more than P100 million worth of agricultural crops that brought thousands of farmers to the brink of starvation.

The lack of food supplies caused some farmers in T'boli town to eat "kayos," a toxic root crop that could cause poisoning if not cooked properly. At the height of the drought in 1998, several residents of mountain villages in South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato Province were reported to have died after eating "kayos."

The environmental group Greenpeace, which had documented cases of hunger in T'boli town during the 2005 dry spell, cited that the unusual dry episodes in the area is part of the erratic climatic changes in the planet caused by worsening global warming. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)