LEGAZPI CITY: The drought caused by El Niño that destroyed P37 billion crops prompted the Department of Agriculture to introduce drought tolerant crops to counter erratic climate and pursue cloud seeding in barren regions of Mindanao, Agriculture Secretary Prospero Alcala told The Manila Times.
“El Niño destroyed P37 billion agricultural crops specifically palay (rice) plantation since the mild drought occurrence in the Philippines. Typhoon Lando has helped restock water in our dams but this is not enough to revive the barren farmland,” Alcala said.
He said Albay is the only province in the country that was able to achieve 100 percent rice sufficiency despite the typhoons.
“We’re focusing on cloud seeding in Mindanao especially in regions 10, 11, 12 and 13 because these areas are the most affected by El Niño. We’re also distributing rice-drought tolerant (crops) to withstand the erratic weather,” the DA chief said.
El Niño “Southern Oscillation” (ENSO) is a recurrent ocean-warming and atmospheric disturbance resulting in deficient rainfall or prolonged drought in some areas and heavy rains, storms and typhoons in other areas of the world.
The ongoing El Niño phenomenon, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), is similar to that which hit the country 40 years ago. It usually appears every two to seven years but the most intense episode of El Niño took place in 1982 to 1983 due to unusual world-wide effect of prolong drought.
Buffer seeds stock for typhoon stricken regions were also given by the DA to local government units across the country for local farmers to replant rice for food sufficiency, Alcala added.
Alcala went to Albay and Sorsogon on Saturday to hand over agricultural machineries and other agricultural items to LGUs and farmer organizations.
In Sorsogon, Alcala handed over P49 million worth of agricultural and fisheries gear. About P34.3 million worth of farm implements were given to Albay during the provincial agriculture stakeholders’ meeting and farmers forum held at Albay Astrodome.
The Philippines, according to Alcala, needs to be competitive in producing sufficient agricultural crops specifically with the Asean integration if the country doesn’t want to be left behind.
Asked by The Manila Times how the Philippines will cope with the free market allowing other countries to sell agricultural goods freely, Alcala said that the government should focus on high valued crops production, and adopt to mechanization to be competitive.
“We need to be competitive and focus on mechanization farming beginning 2016 to 2017 to increase our production or else we will be eaten by our neighboring countries. So we really need to go on mechanize farming,” Alcala said.
He said that the government is also working closely with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and PhilRice to increase rice production.