The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has identified Central Luzon, the country’s rice granary, as the most vulnerable to El Niño.
Of the 257,600 hectares of farms nationwide that have been tagged as vulnerable areas, NIA said 85,000 hectares are in Region 3. Central Luzon is considered as the top producer of rice in the Philippines.
The other vulnerable farms identified by the NIA are in Region 12 (27,00 hectares); Region 9 or Zamboanga Peninsula (13,000 hectares); Region 7 or Central Visayas (14,000 hectares); Region 6 or Western Visayas (15,000 hectares); Region 4-B or Mimaropa (17,000 hectares); and Region 1 or the Ilocos Region (24,000 hectares).
“So we will encourage farmers on those identified areas to plant high-value crops. NIA is coordinating with the Department of Agriculture for the preparation and positioning of seeds,” Josephine Salazar, officer-in-charge of NIA’s Engineering and Operations, said in a statement issued by the Presidential Communications Office.
NIA said it has prepositioned seedlings to over 200,000 hectares of farmland for protection against the possible effects of the El Niño phenomenon next year.
Salazar also said the agency is preparing to set up immediate measures such as positioning of seedlings for the identified farmlands that have high value crops.
“For the overall direction of NIA po ngayong 2024, we are also preparing for the El Niño as well,” she said. “Under our proposed budget for 2024, mayroon na po kaming mga immediate na measure for that.”
President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., who is the concurrent Agriculture chief, has directed a whole-of-government approach against the looming impact of the dry spell.
Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Operations Arnel de Mesa had said that the Department of Agriculture needs to coordinate “very closely” with the NIA for the timing of the planting of rice.
Preliminary data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that palay production in April to June went up by 1.1 percent to 4.24 million metric tons (MMT) from the previous year’s 4.2 MMT.
Despite the increase in unmilled rice output during the period, PSA said the volume of crops production in the second quarter was lower at 17.87 MMT.
“This exhibits an annual decline of -0.9 percent compared with the same period of the previous year at 18,050.56 thousand metric tons.”
The annual decline in the volume of crop production during the quarter was mainly brought about by the annual decreases noted in the production of corn (-0.8 percent), sugarcane (-11.3 percent), rubber, cup lump (-8.5 percent), and sweet potato (-7.5 percent).