P156M of crops damaged by drought in South Cotabato

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/24 April) — Around P156 million worth of agricultural crops in South Cotabato province have been so far devastated as a result of the prolonged dry spell triggered by mild El Nino Phenomenon.

Justina Navarrete, acting head of the South Cotabato Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG), said Friday their latest assessment showed that a total of 3,504 hectares of corn and palay crops in parts of the province have been destroyed as more farmlands have dried up due to the intense dry weather.

She said the affected areas covered major production sites in Koronadal City and in the municipalities of Polomolok, T’boli, Tupi, Surallah, Banga, Sto. Nino, Lake Sebu Tampakan, Norala and Tantangan.

The corn areas posted the most damage at 3,081 hectares valued at around P136.65 million, she said.

Navarrete said it affected over 1,000 corn farmers and farm workers in 110 of the province’s 199 barangays.

For rice, she said the dry spell ravaged 423 hectares of standing crops worth a total of P19.98 million.

It affected a total of 671 farmers from irrigated and non-irrigated or rain-fed palay areas in 47 barangays in the province, she said.

Despite these damages, Navarrete said the provincial government could not yet declare the entire province under a state of calamity as only two municipalities have so far made such declaration.

She said the municipal governments of T’boli and Surallah had declared a state of calamity due to the severe impact of the continuing dry spell triggered by the El Nino Phenomenon.

But she said the city and municipal councils of Koronadal, Banga, Sto. Nino, Lake Sebu Tampakan, Tupi and Norala are currently evaluating the possibility of making calamity declarations.

On the part of the provincial government, Navarrete said they have implemented various interventions to help mitigate the effects of the dry spell.

She said the local government earlier released some P420,000 for the installation of additional shallow tube wells in rain-fed farm areas in the municipalities of  Tantangan, Banga and Surallah .

“We also distributed assorted vegetable seeds for backyard gardening to the affected farmers and residents,” she said in a statement.

Navarrete said the OPAG launched earlier this month a food-for-work scheme to assist ongoing efforts by the municipal governments against the worsening rat infestation.

Under the scheme, she said they offer a kilo of rice to farmers and residents in exchange for every 10 rat tails.

She added that they also distributed search/headlights, flashlights, bows and arrows, bolos and batteries that would be used for the rat campaign or hunting. (MindaNews)