GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 March) – Around P12 million worth of agricultural crops have been damaged in South Cotabato province due to the effects of the prevailing dry spell triggered by the El Niño Phenomenon.
Justina Navarrete, head of the South Cotabato-Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG), said Monday the recorded damage mainly came from palay and corn areas in 10 barangays of Surallah town, which was among the areas that were so far hit hardest by the dry weather.
She said over 300 hectares of farmlands were affected by the dry spell in Barangays Moloy, Talahik, Tubiala, Veterans, Canahay, Centrala, Colongulo, Lambontong, Lamsugod and Buenavista.
Navarrete said majority of the damaged crops were corn, which is highly vulnerable to dry weather, and palay in rain-fed areas.
“There were corn farmers who proceeded with their third cropping despite warnings of the coming dry spell,” she said in a radio interview.
Aside from Surallah town, she said there were other areas that were affected by the calamity but the concerned local government units have yet to submit their validated reports.
Among the areas that earlier reported initial effects of the El Niño were the municipalities of Tampakan, Tantangan and Sto. Nino.
Citing their monitoring, Navarrete said there were no water resources that dried up as a result of the dry spell.
For palay farms in the irrigated areas, Navarrete said there were still substantial supply of irrigation and the National Irrigation Administration has scheduled the water releases to cope with the situation.
She said such strategy was implemented by the agency in all dams in the province’s upper and lower valley area.
For the rain-fed and unirrigated farm areas, she said they advised farmers to shift to planting vegetables and cash crops.
Farmers in unirrigated palay areas started planting watermelon and mongo as early as January as alternative crop, she said.
As part of their interventions, Navarrete said they distributed free seeds of open-pollinated vegetables to the affected farmers.
“We’re encouraging them to plant even in their own backyard to ensure that they will have available food in case the dry spell prolongs,” she said.
The official added that the provincial government is also preparing various assistance to the affected farmers, among them provision of emergency employment and agricultural inputs. (MindaNews)