Dry spell destroys 300 hectares of corn, rice farms in GenSan

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 March) — Around 300 hectares of corn and palay or rice farmlands here have been devastated due to the onslaught of a continuing dry spell in the area.

Merlinda Donasco, City Agriculture Office (CAO) head, said Tuesday a total of 12 barangays in the city have so far reported significant crop damages as a result of the unusually-intense dry weather since January.

She said the climatic condition had damaged 281 hectares of corn farmlands and 20 hectares of palay areas in the city.

The affected corn areas are in barangays Bawing, Conel, Mabuhay, Tinagacan, San Jose, Batomelong, Sinawal, Upper Labay, Katangawan and Ligaya, she said.

She said Barangay Sinawal reported the most damage to corn crops at a total of 80 hectares based on an assessment of the barangay council.

For palay, Donasco said the affected farm areas were in barangays Ligaya, Buayan and Baluan.

She said they have yet to complete their assessment on the impact of the dry spell to other crops, especially vegetables, corn and coconut.

Prior to the start of the dry spell, the official said they had sent advisories to local farmers to refrain from planting crops that are not resistant to drought like palay and corn.

She said they instructed them to instead plant root crops and those that are considered drought-resistant.

“(But) we can’t really stop our farmers from planting although they know that they’re taking huge risks with the weather condition,” she said in an interview over TV Patrol Socksargen.

Donasco urged local farmers to heed their advice due to a looming drought as a result of a mild El Niño Phenomenon.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) confirmed on Monday 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 this city and other parts of Region 12 as among the most vulnerable areas in terms of the adverse impact of the El Niño.

“Our farmers should take our advice seriously so they can avoid huge crop losses,” Donasco said.

In terms of the affected farmers, she said they are currently studying possible interventions to mitigate the effects of the dry spell as well as some assistance.

Donasco earlier said among the counter-measures that the city could undertake is cloud-seeding to induce rains in the area.

Cloud seeding is the process of manually spreading either dry ice or salt into the upper part of the clouds to help stimulate the precipitation process and form rain.

She said the city government has a standing allotment of P1 million for the conduct of cloud-seeding operations if needed later on. (MindaNews)