Rat damage to palay, corn farms in Southwestern Mindanao pegged at P612-M

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/18 March)—The damage of rat infestation on palay and corn farms in Southwestern Mindanao stood at P191 million and P421 million, respectively, or a total of P612 million, the regional Department of Agriculture declared here on Friday.

But Enriqueto Natividad, DA-Region 12 chief for planning and monitoring division, said the extent of destruction wrought by the rat infestation won’t affect the rice sufficiency of the region.

“What could cause rice shortage in our region is if when our palay harvests would be brought to other regions due to higher buying prices,” he told reporters in Filipino.

Rats have attacked palay farms in the region starting a year ago, the agency reported.

Out of the 207, 048 hectares of palay farms, rats destroyed 15,454 has, or just 7.47% of the total, from March 16 2010 to March 15 this year, said Natividad.

The worst hit province in the region was North Cotabato with 8,548 has, followed by Sultan Kudarat with 4,169 has; South Cotabato, including General Santos City, 2.658 has; and Sarangani 84 has, records showed.

North Cotabato has already declared a state of calamity because of the extent of damage by the rats on rice and corn farms.

In the same press conference, Amalia Datukan, regional Agriculture director, said the damage caused by the rats to the region “should not be a big deal” to the populace in the area as it has not affected the rice sufficiency of the region.

“Interventions have been infused in a bid to control the infestation, and help the affected farmers” she said.

Datukan said the regional Agriculture office has distributed in the different parts of the region 435 kilograms of zinc phosphide to curb the menace.

Such amount of rodenticides can serve 21,750 has, she noted.

Natividad blamed the emergence of the rats to the dry spell that hit the region.

“The long dry spell in October 2009 to March 2010 made food scarce [for the rats] thus, making them hungry and ravenous. On the other hand, the onset of the wet planting season allowed them to proliferate,” he said.

For corn, the rats have damaged a total of 13,726 has out of the 131,127 has of standing crop from July to December 2010, the DA report said.

Of the damaged area, 10,092 has were in North Cotabato and 3,634 in South Cotabato, it added. There were no mention of damaged farms in Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani during the period.

But for the period from January to March 15 this year, rats have destroyed some 2,500 has out the 47,815 has of planted area in all of the region’s provinces including General Santos City, the report showed. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)