Alcala insists damage limited
THE agriculture sector is still expected to hit the growth target of 3.5 percent this year even as the El Niño phenomenon continues to wreak havoc on the sector, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Wednesday.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told reporters that the sector continues to perform well despite weather-related risks and that the government has managed to limit the damage caused by the drought due to “early preparation and various interventions.”
Alcala’s statement comes just days after thousands of farmers barricaded a national highway in Kidapawan City, Cotabato to ask for rice amid the effects of the El Niño on their farmlands. At least two farmers died after being shot during a violent police dispersal of the rally last Friday.
“Despite the ongoing El Nino, the agriculture sector remained resilient,” Alcala said, insisting that damage due to the drought has remained minimal.
The agriculture chief also made the statement even as farm losses due to the El Nino have amounted to P9.9 billion from February last year to April this year. Losses due to the drought reached P3.4 billion from February to December 2015, and were even higher at P6.5 billion in just the four months from January to April 2016.
Alcala stated that growth is expected to come from crops that are highly dependent on irrigation.
“This is because of our hybridization program, which has allowed us to increase yield despite the reduction in harvest areas nationwide. Other growth drivers include livestock and poultry sectors,” the DA chief said.
Growth in the farm sector may also be largely driven by a low-base effect, he said. To recall, the country’s agriculture production inched up by 0.11 percent last year due to the prolonged dry spell and damage caused by Typhoon Lando (international name: Koppu) in the later part of 2015.
Alcala said that “timely mitigation programs” have significantly reduced possible damage to crops and other agriculture products.
For rice alone, the damage is expected to reach 203,000 metric tons by the end of the El Nino episode which is reportedly much lower than the 900,000 MT earlier projected by government policymakers.
Weather bureau Pagasa had earlier warned that El Niño would intensify in the last quarter of 2015 into the first half of 2016. It projected that the higher temperatures will exceed the severe conditions the country felt in 1997 to 1998, and that the full effect of the weather phenomenon was to be felt in February and March 2016 when the entire country was projected to get only 20 to 30 percent of normal rainfall.