El Niño's crop damage has no 'adverse impact' on national production – DA

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) said the agricultural damage sustained from the weak El Niño would have minimal effect on national production. 

This is despite DA's Disaster Risk Reduction and Management operations center reporting that production losses as of Tuesday, April 2, already reached P5.05 billion, with corn damage going past P2 billion. 

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol told reporters in a briefing on Tuesday that the losses so far would take up .63% of the overall production for rice, while corn damage would take up 1.2% of the overall production of the crop. 

With these figures, the agriculture chief said the agency would keep the production target of 20 million metric tons. This is already lower by about 500,000 metrics tons from the previous target. (READ: El Niño to have minimal effects on inflation – NEDA)

Piñol said the damaged rice and corn crops were already planted in the tailend of 2018, when farmers in the regions of Bicol and Cagayan Valley took advantage of the rain to water their crops.

"This damage is because of the farmers na sumugal.... 'Di mo masaisisisi ang farmers dahil may  instances before na magkakaroon ng dry spell pero uulan," Piñol said.

(This damage is because some farmers took a risk.... You can't blame the farmers because there had been instances when rain came despite the dry spell.)

"We made enough efforts, enough information campaign that there’s an El Niño coming," he added. 

The government is conducting cloud seeding operations to induce rain in areas affected by the drought, while the DA has also readied additional seeds, credit, and insurance for the farmers affected by the El Niño.

New strategy

Despite downplaying effect of production losses on the national production, Piñol has also pushed for preventive measures, such as the use of solar-powered irrigation system and a national irrigation program.

"I warned fellow Cabinet officials last night that we have to move fast because the El Niño phenomenon is moving fast now," Piñol said.

"Kapag 'di natin ginawan 'yan [ng solusyon], every two years mamumulot tayo ng basag na salamin…. That’s an expensive exercise. Masyadong mahal ang intevention."

(If we don't do something about this, every two years, we will be picking up broken pieces again.... That's an expensive exercise. The intervention is too expensive.) – Rappler.com