El Niño destroys P290-M Isabela crops

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ILAGAN, Isabela: While the rainy season is already felt in most parts of the country, delayed effects of El Niño still wreak havoc on thousands of hectares, destroying millions-worth of agricultural crops in the province.

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Latest assessment of the Provincial Agriculture Office here showed that at least 42,195 hectares of farmlands have been affected by the delayed dry spell resulting in the loss of more than P290-million worth of corn and palay (unmilled rice).

“We foresee placing the province under a state of calamity due to the extent of losses on our corn and palay crops,” provincial agriculturist Danilo Tumamao said.

Tumamao added that at least 17 of Isabela’s 36 towns were severely affected by the dry spell, with San Mariano, Benito Soliven, Echague, Ramon, Cordon and Santiago City being the hardest-hit towns.

At least 27,677 corn farmers were affected, including those who cultivate thousands of hectares of mostly rain-fed farmlands.

The provincial agriculture office said the losses have been aggravated by a lack of irrigation water coming from the Magat dam, which has been dipping to its lowest water level.

Rodolfo Mejia, National Irrigation Administration (NIA)-Magat River Integrated Irrigation System division manager, said the downpour this month failed to raise the dam’s water level.

Mejia added that irrigation water is badly needed to sustain growth of the remaining corn and rice plants in the province.

While Isabela is next to Nueva Ecija in rice production, it is the country’s number one corn-producing province.

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