SouthCot, Kudarat farmers rejoice with the rain

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 May) – The early onset of the rainy season has brought some relief to farmers in nearby South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces who were affected by the closure earlier this month of a major irrigation system in the area.

Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato agriculture officer, said the continuing rains in the last two weeks have helped revive some 3,000 hectares of standing palay crops in the province’s upper valley area that were earlier at risk of devastation due to the intense summer heat and the lack of irrigation.

South Cotabato’s upper valley area, which is considered as the province’s rice granary, comprises the municipalities of Banga, Surallah, T’boli, Norala, Sto. Nino and Lake Sebu.

On May 1, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) closed down the Allah River Irrigation System (RIS), the area’s main irrigation source, to undergo repair and rehabilitation for three months.

Local agriculture and NIA personnel earlier noted that the closure of Allah RIS dams 1 and 2 would affect around 9,000 hectares of palay farms in South Cotabato and an additional 2,000 hectares in Sultan Kudarat.

Legaste said they informed local palay farmers as early as December regarding the irrigation facility’s scheduled rehabilitation but most of them still gambled to plant several weeks before it closed down.

Of the 6,000 hectares that were planted, he said they initially expected that around 50 percent or 3,000 hectares would eventually dry up due to the closure of the Allah RIS.

“(The rains) saved our farmlands from totally drying up. If the present condition continues until the end of the month, we’ll have around 6,000 hectares of palay ready for the next harvest,” he said in a radio interview.

South Cotabato and other parts of Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region have been experiencing almost daily rains in the last two weeks due to the expanded Low Pressure Area and Intertropical Convergence Zone that affected Mindanao.

Dante Ariola, weather forecaster of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) station here, said residents should expect more rains in the coming days based on the present weather pattern.

He said the area’s climate is already on transition from summer to the rainy season, which usually intensifies in the months of June and July.

Meantime, aside from palay, Legaste said around 36,000 hectares of the province’s corn farmlands were also benefiting from the present rainy period.

He said most of the standing corn crops were situated in the upland areas, which normally depend on rain for irrigation.

“Our corn crops are in good situation right now because the dry period has not extended up to this month,” Legaste said.

But he said they are closely monitoring the impact of the rains on the province’s fruit production, especially of mangoes and other tropical fruits.

“Summer is normally the flowering stage for our mangoes, lanzones and rambutan. We’re just hoping that the rains will not hamper our fruit production,” he added. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)