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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Gov’t should act vs. drought

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With the prolonged dry spell caused by the El Niño climate pattern likely to pull down agriculture production this year, the government should act decisively to assist our farmers.

El Niño, characterized by long periods of drought due to reduced rainfall, could adversely affect production of rice and other agricultural products.

According to an earlier advisory by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), a strong El Niño will prevail over the country until February.

But weather trackers later reported that majority of global climate models suggest that El Niño will likely persist until the March-April-May 2024 season with a transition to Enso (El Niño Southern Oscillation)-neutral in the April-May-June 2024 season.

Enso-neutral pertains to weather conditions that are neither labeled as El Niño nor La Niña, according to the state weather agency.

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The expected drought from the weather phenomenon would certainly offset the gains made in the agricultural sector last year, when the Philippine Statistics Authority reported the agriculture sector improved by 0.7 percent in the last quarter of 2023, driven mainly by higher crop, poultry and livestock production.

This brought the overall value of agriculture to P493.73 billion in 2023, up from P490.06 billion in 2022.

The agricultural sector is already experiencing the impact of El Nino.

According to the Department of Agriculture, farmers in Western Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula have already lost P109.44 million due to El Niño.

The DA-Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Operations Center said the prolonged dry spell affected 2,602 farmers, tilling 2,177 hectares of land in the two regions.

The DA estimated the volume of production loss to be at 4,738 metric tons, mostly in the rice subsector.

Meanwhile, rice farmers in two towns and a city in Negros Occidental have lost at least P7 million as the dry spell hit farms in the province. 117.22 hectares of rice farms had started to dry up, affecting at least 143 farmers in 11 barangays.

The government is moving in the right direction by taking steps to curb the phenomenon’s effects on agriculture and assist farmers in coping with the dry spell.

Thus far, the Department of Agriculture has been regularly monitoring weather conditions and actual ground situation in the various regions. It is also disseminating advisories and agro-meteorological information to farmers via Facebook Messenger and informing farmers about proper crop management during El Niño.

Moreover, the DA also validates areas vulnerable to dry spells, assesses areas before cloud seeding operations, and adopts drought-resistant crop varieties.

We fully support stepped-up government intervention measures to boost rice and overall agricultural productivity amid expected below-normal rainfall in the months ahead.

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