Nueva Ecija: Destroyed rice, vegetable farms everywhere

Pia Ranada
Nueva Ecija: Destroyed rice, vegetable farms everywhere
Typhoon Lando deals a devastating blow to a region known as Central Luzon's Food Bowl and Rice Granary

CABANATUAN CITY, Philippines – Typhoon Lando may have left Nueva Ecija, but it leaves a devastating trail that residents, especially farmers, now have to deal with.

Nueva Ecija, dubbed the Food Bowl and Rice Granary of Central Luzon, was dealt a blow of at least P3.5 billion worth of damaged crops as of Tuesday, October 20, according to a Department of Agriculture (DA) report. 

The province suffered the most agricultural damage out of all affected provinces, said the report. The value of crops lost in the province alone amounted to more than half or 59% of the total worth of crops lost from Lando – a total of P5.9 billion.

The DA said it is still waiting for more local reports to come in. But it doesn’t take a list of numbers to see the damage is colossal. 

The view from almost every road in Nueva Ecija on Tuesday morning were fields and fields of floodswept or windswept crop lands, many still submerged under water or covered in mud. 

Those beside rivers were in the worst condition. Rice fields had turned into extensions of rivers, bodies of water which had once given them life. 

Back to zero

22-year-old Jennifer Carpio said all of her sitaw, papaya, and balag crops were wiped out by the floods from the swollen Talipapa River.

Naanod na po ng baha. Ngayon lang namin naranasan yung ganyang delubyo (They were all washed away by the flood. This is the first time we experienced that kind of deluge),” she told Rappler.

Her plants were flattened by cakey mud. In a nearby farm, there were uprooted calamansi trees.

Her vegetable farming earns more than her husband’s mechanical repair job. She now has to find another source of income or cut costs. But she’s luckier than her neighbors.

Yung isang magsasaka, umiiyak kanina kasi naanod yung kubo niya (One farmer was crying earlier because his hut was swept away),” she said. 

Many rice plants had only a few days to go before being harvested, said Barangay Talipapa councilor Mario Tudla.

Yung iba for harvest na lang, inabutan. Iba diyan isang araw na lang, meron diyang second week, first week. Pinaka-matagal, 3 weeks, ha-harvest na yan,” he told Rappler.

(Some were for harvest already. Some had just one day to go, or second week, first week. The longest was 3 weeks before harvesting.)

True enough, some rice fields that sustained major damage were already yellow in color, indicating they were supposed to be harvested soon.

Rice plants of luckier farmers were only bent, but could recover with the right care. 

Deadly mud

Aside from the wind and strong water current, it was the mud that did a lot of damage to the crops, said Tudla, who is himself a vegetable farmer. 

Yun ang naging problema sa baha na yan. Lagi nag-iiwan ng banlik, putik. Matuyo man yan, hindi rin mabubuhay ang tanim,” he said.

(That’s the problem with this kind of flood. It always leaves behind mud. Even if the fields dry out, the crops won’t survive.)

In Bongabon, a town in Nueva Ecija known as the Onion Capital of the Philippines, its chief crop also suffered from Lando’s onslaught.

Partial reports from the town’s disaster office showed P33 million worth of crops were lost. 

Lando, which hit the country’s top agricultural regions, is a reminder of how farmers are at the mercy of natural disasters. 

A few hours of rain and wind can render months of toil useless, forcing farmers to go back to zero.  – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.