DA-12 assures no rice shortage despite El Nino

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/02 June) — The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Region 12 played down fears of a possible rice shortage as a result of the onslaught of the mild El Nino Phenomenon that already left around P944 million in losses to crops and livestock in the area.

Amalia Jayag-Datukan, DA Region 12 executive director, said Tuesday the region has enough palay harvests and standby rice stocks to cater to the requirements of its four provinces and five cities.

She acknowledged that the dry spell has slowed down the area’s palay production in the last three months but noted that the affected farm areas are now starting to recover due to the occasional rains since last month.

“The dry spell delayed the start of our palay planting season but our overall production remains at the surplus level so we don’t expect any shortage or dramatic increase in rice prices in the coming weeks,” she said in a press conference in Koronadal City.

According to data released by DA-12, the dry spell has affected a total of 44 municipalities and cities in the region.

It specifically ravaged some 233,555 hectares of corn, 157,328 hectares of palay and 1,357.94 hectares of high-value crops production areas as well as 6,564 heads of livestock.

The dry spell directly affected a total of 24,824 corn farmers, 9,530 palay farmers and 1,220 high-value crop farmers.

In terms of value, the agency listed production and opportunity losses of P571.128 million for corn, P259.882 million for rice, P101.55 million for high-value crops and P11.52 million for livestock.

Hardest hit is North Cotabato with estimated losses of P570.16 million, followed by South Cotabato with P200.484 million, Sultan Kudarat with P96.55 million and Sarangani with P76.88 million.

Citing data from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), Datukan said the dry spell started to affect the region in early February and eventually intensified last March as shown by the decrease in the area’s rainfall volume to 40 percent below the normal level.

But the area’s rainfall volume improved to the mid or near normal level by April and almost normal level by May, she said.

For this month, the official said PAGASA projected the area’s rainfall condition to return to the normal level and even above normal, especially in parts of Sarangani Province.

With the onset of the regular rains last month, Datukan said palay and corn farmers in the region have already started replanting for the year’s second cropping season.

In May, she said some 21,612 hectares of palay production areas in the region were planted and 32,047 hectares for corn.

For this month, she said they expect an additional 48,570 hectares of palay to be planted and 3,890 hectares for corn.

Datukan added these crops could result to potential harvests of 315,819 metric tons (MT) of palay and 107,811 MT of corn. (MindaNews)