P25.7M worth of crops in GenSan damaged due to El Niño

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 26 March) – Around P25.7-million worth of agricultural crops here have been devastated due to the impact of the continuing dry spell triggered by the mild El Niño Phenomenon.

Merlinda Donasco, City Agriculture Office chief, said Thursday the intense dry weather has so far destroyed a total of 836.17 hectares of farmlands in parts of the city that were planted with corn, banana, coconut, vegetables and other high value crops .

She said the affected areas covered 15 of the city’s 26 barangays and involved a total of 455 farmers.

These are barangays Batomelong, Buayan, Conel, Katangawan, Ligaya, Olympog, Sinawal, Upper Labay, Tinagacan, San Jose, Mabuhay, San Isidro, Baluan, Bawing and Lagao.

Donasco said the value of the crop damage or loss has increased as they included the high value crops in their assessment.

“We’re continually monitoring the situation in some critical farm areas as the situation could worsen in the coming weeks,” she said.

She said that based on an advisory issued to their office by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the El Niño currently affecting the city and the neighboring areas could extend until August.

It said the dry spell being experienced in some parts of the country could prolong as a result of the El Niño.

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.

“When that (prolonged dry spell) happens, more farm areas will certainly be affected, especially those planted with high value crops,” Donasco said.

As initial intervention, the official said City Mayor Ronnel Rivera has approved their recommendation to provide immediate livelihood assistance to the affected farmers.

“We will distribute drought-tolerant seeds and other suitable planting materials,” she said.

Donasco said the city government has allotted an initial P9 million under its supplemental budget for the livelihood assistance and the purchase of palay and corn seeds.

The palay and corn seeds will be distributed to local farmers once the dry spell would ease so they could immediately plant again, she said.

As to the conduct of cloud seeding to induce rains, she said they are still assessing the appropriate time to do it.

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.

The city government has a standing allotment of P1 million for the conduct of cloud-seeding operations.

“It would be a waste if we give it a go and there will be no seedable clouds available and there’s also chance that the rain will eventually drop in areas outside the city,” she added.