Rat attack destroys P29-M palay farms in Region 12

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/18 February) — Rat infestation has destroyed about P29  million worth of palay in two provinces in Region 12 (Southwestern Mindanao) as the regional Department of Agriculture moves in to control the damage wrought by the rodents.

Amalia Jayag-Datukan, Agriculture department regional director, warned on Friday that continued rat attacks on palay farms will pose direct threat to the region’s rice sufficiency.

“We have provided farmers with zinc phosphide and regular information campaign on the procedures on how to eliminate rats and training in pest management were undertaken by our experts in a bid to minimize the effects of the infestation in palay-producing municipalities,” Datukan said.

Rats infested palay farms in the provinces of South and North Cotabato. Hit hardest by the rats in South Cotabato were the towns of Surallah and Tantangan, according to a report from the Provincial Agriculture Office submitted to the regional Agriculture department.

Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato chief agriculturist, said the total damage caused by the rats to palay farms from December 2010 to January 11 reached P16.9 million.

In Surallah town, Legaste said 15 barangays suffered, affecting 428 hectares with an estimated volume of 2,970 metric tons with a value of P8.3 million.

In Tantangan municipality, 13 villages suffered from rat attacks, destroying P8.6 million worth of crops.

Last October, Lake Sebu town declared a state of calamity after 10 of its 19 barangays were attacked by rats.

Citing a report from the Provincial Agriculture Office in North Cotabato, Datukan said the rat infestation damaged P12 million worth of crops in nine municipalities as of December 2010.

At least 4,881 farmers were affected from severe rat and rice blast infestation, the OPAG North Cotabato report said.

Rice fields attacked by the rodents were placed at 1,357 hectares, it added.

Datukan said rats destroy the palay by eating its stem, especially those almost ready for harvest.

The affected towns in North Cotabato were identified as President Roxas, Alamada, Carmen, Pigcawayan, Aleosan, Libungan, Antipas, Kabacan and Tulunan.

Datukan said the regional Agriculture office has so far distributed 425 kg of zinc phosphide as intervention to the local government units that have submitted crop damage reports.

The volume of rodenticides distributed can serve 20,000 hectares, she said.

Last year, the South Cotabato provincial government conducted a “rat tail campaign” where a kilo of rice was given to farmers in exchange for every ten rat tails they collected. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)