GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/28 September) — The National Food Authority (NFA) in South Cotabato assured local residents that it has enough rice stocks for the province in case the predicted long dry spell or El Niño phenomenon intensifies in the coming months.
Angelina Lucena, NFA-South Cotabato assistant provincial manager, said they currently have standby rice stocks in various warehouses that are enough to sustain the rice requirements of the province’s 10 towns and lone city until the first quarter of 2013.
“We have allotted rice supplies for distribution during disasters or calamities, which includes the El Niño,” she said.
She said their standby inventory comprised imported rice as well as milled rice that was sourced from palay stocks purchased by the agency from local farmers.
With its population of around 800,000 the province needs 117,075 metric tons (MT) of rice annually.
Last year, South Cotabato produced a total of 310,410 MT of palay or equivalent to 172,658 MT of milled rice.
Earlier this month, the NFA central office delivered an additional 120,000 bags of imported rice from Vietnam to the province and the neighboring areas to augment their standby rice inventory.
South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces received 20,000 bags each while this city and nearby Sarangani province got 75,000 bags. Digos City in Davao del Sur received 5,000 bags.
Lucena said the agency is continually beefing up its standby rice stocks through its ongoing intensified palay procurement program in the area.
Parts of the province, especially in the upper valley area, are currently at the peak of the palay harvest season.
“We’re targeting to capture a significant volume from the ongoing harvests so we could allot more for the El Niño and further build up our stocks for the second quarter of 2013,” she said.
As part of its intensified palay buying, NFA South Cotabato has established additional buying stations in four strategic locations in the province.
NFA provincial manager Avelino Usman said they opened buying stations in the towns of Surallah, Tampakan, Norala and in Koronadal City to make it easier for farmers to sell their palay harvests.
The NFA’s support price to individual palay farmers is currently at P17.40 per kilogram and P17.70 per kilogram to members of farmer-cooperatives and organizations.
In an advisory, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) earlier said the El Niño will likely hit various parts of the country beginning October and
would last until May 2013.
The El Niño, which is caused by an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific, will initially cause below-normal rainfall that would later progress into drier conditions.
In 2010, a mild El Niño caused farmlands in the province and the nearby areas to dry up for several months, destroying millions worth of agricultural crops. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)