South Cotabato steps up drive vs rat infestation

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 January) — Agriculture personnel in South Cotabato have stepped up moves to stop rodent or rat infestation in areas of the province that already destroyed around 1,200 hectares of agricultural crops.

Justina Navarrete, acting head of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG), said Thursday the infestation affected corn and palay areas in Tantangan, Polomolok, Tupi and Tampakan towns.

In Tantangan alone, she said an estimated 1,000 hectares of crops have been damaged as a result of massive rodent attacks.

The official said around 49 hectares of crops, mostly corn, were also destroyed in Tampakan and the remaining damaged areas were reported in Tupi and Polomolok.

“This is mainly due to the continuing dry spell. The rats have been coming out and invading our farmlands as their usual food sources have become scarce,” she said in a radio interview.

In Tampakan, for instance, she said there were reported rodent attacks on fruit-bearing trees and even coconuts in the area.

Navarrete said they have also received reports of infestations of black bugs and army worms in farm areas in Banga and Surallah towns, and in Koronadal City.

She said they are currently evaluating the value of the crop damages as a result of the infestation, which is seen to worsen in the coming weeks due to the prevailing dry spell triggered by the El Nino phenomenon.

In September last year, OPAG reported crop damages of around P21.6 million due to the rat infestation in nearly 900 hectares of corn and palay areas in the province.

Navarrete said they also provided rodenticides to local farmers in the affected areas to help contain the rat infestation.

Meantime, aside from the pest attacks, the dry spell has also damaged farms.

Navarrete said around 7,000 hectares of standing corn and palay crops in the province have already been affected by the dry spell, which was predicted to last until June.

In Tantangan, she said there is still available irrigation in lowland barangays like Cabuling and San Felipe but farmlands in the upland areas have already dried up.

In Koronadal City, city agriculturist Emelita Miguel said most corn crops that were planted late last year in elevated areas of the city have already wilted due to lack of rains.

Citing their initial assessment, she said the damaged farmlands already reached about 20 percent of the city’s estimated 3,000 hectares of corn area. (MindaNews)