2,400 hectares of Sarangani farmlands devastated due to mild El Niño

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 12 March) – Around 2,400 hectares of farmlands in Sarangani Province have been devastated due to the impact of a continuing dry spell in the area triggered by the onset of a mild El Niño Phenomenon.

Jonathan Duhaylungsod, Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG) chief, said Thursday the intense dry weather since January has caused irrigation supplies to drop and farmlands in parts of the province to dry up, damaging various crops.

He said the affected crops, as reported by the Municipal Agriculture Offices (MAO) of the province’s seven towns, were corn, banana, coconut, rice or palay and palm oil.

“The first crop that really suffered is corn since it is seasonal, followed by banana planted in areas that don’t have irrigation,” he said in an interview over TV Patrol Socksargen.

A partial report released by the OPAG noted that the dry spell already damaged some 949 hectares of corn farmlands, 771 hectares of banana, 452 hectares of coconut, 152 hectares of palay and 112 hectares of palm oil.

Hardest hit were farm areas in the municipalities of Alabel, Maasim and Malungon, and with nearly a thousand farmers directly affected.

Duhaylungsod said they conducted a validation earlier this week of the affected areas along with personnel of the MAOs.

“Our office is currently consolidating the reports that will serve as basis for our interventions and mitigation activities,” he said in a text message to MindaNews.

He said among the initial interventions that they have identified is the distribution of corn and palay seeds as well as other planting materials and inputs to the affected farmers.

The official said they are targeting to purchase and deliver such assistance to the beneficiaries in April.

“This will allow the affected farmers to immediately plant in the next cropping or after the dry spell ends,” he said.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) confirmed earlier this week that the country is already experiencing a mild case of El Niño.

It said a short dry spell may persist in some parts of the country and may prolong the usual dry season.

El Niño is a phenomenon caused by the abnormal warming of the central and eastern Pacific waters, generally manifests in a dry spell, or below normal rainfall, usually following wet conditions.

PAGASA officials had identified Sarangani and other parts of Region 12 as among the most vulnerable areas in terms of the adverse impact of the El Niño.