Cebu City (8 February) -- The Department of Agriculture - Region 7 has prepared a set of measures to mitigate the effects of the El Niņo dry spell expected to affect cropping in the first semester of 2010. El Niņo refers to the unusual warming of sea surface temperatures along the equatorial Pacific that is usually characterized by below-average rainfall, which leads to a dry spell.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) reported that his year's El Niņo would likely be moderate. And as early as December last year, the DA had already created a task force to carry out its five-point program to ensure sustained crop production and farmers' income in the face of a probable El Niņo crisis. This five-point program includes:
Creating a policy environment for effective and efficient implementation of the El Nino Mitigation Program at the regional and provincial level of possible vulnerable areas.
The El Niņo task force, which will implement the DA's El Nino Mitigation program, have identified 23 "highly vulnerable" areas and 24 "moderately vulnerable" areas in the country. The province of Bohol and some parts of Negros Oriental in Central Visayas are included in the areas identified as "moderately vulnerable."
It is expected that 3,788 hectares of rice lands will be affected by drought because of El Niņo and most of these will be in the province of Bohol. Through the GMA Rice program, plans are being set for the establishment of 844 units of shallow tube wells and pump irrigation system open-source (PISOS), restoration or rehabilitation of 7 existing irrigation systems and distribution of drought-resistant varieties such as PSB Rc 68 intended for 125 hectares of affected rice areas. DA, through the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) is also intensifying its efforts to promote the Water-Saving Technology (Alternate Wet and Dry) in rice areas serviced by national and communal irrigation systems in the region.
In terms of corn production, El Niņo is expected to reduce area planted to corn by 2,671 hectares, which would result to an estimated production loss of 6,674 metric tons. Most of these affected corn areas are in the provinces of Bohol and Negros Oriental. Some of the strategies designed to combat the effects of El Niņo in the corn-producing areas are to: (1) distribute 6,000 bags of seeds of drought-tolerant corn seed varieties; (2) encourage farmers to plant sweet potato and cassava as corn intercrop by distributing planting materials to be planted in 70 hectares throughout the region; (3) conduct 4 batches of training on corn production for farmers and retooling of corn technicians; and (4) distribute 100,000 trichogramma cards for the control of corn borer for an estimated 2,000 hectares of areas planted to corn in Cebu, Bohol and Negros Oriental.
The GMA Livestock program has also lined up several measures to counter the ill effects of El Niņo on the livestock sector. These consist of the promotion of technologies on silage production, utilization of farm byproducts and other feed resources, mineral and protein supplementation and animal health protection. The above interventions are expected to cover approximately 1 million animal population valued at P 5,000,000 in threatened areas.
For the high-value commercial crops (HVCC) sector, a total of 426 hectares of areas planted to vegetables and other commercial crops throughout the region are considered vulnerable or threatened areas, which if affected by El Niņo would result to an estimated production losses of 959 metric tons. This includes an estimated 240 hectares of prime mango production areas and 20 hectares planted to ubi kinampay in the province of Bohol.
As mitigating measure, the GMA HVCC program will be distributing some 1,300 kilograms of assorted vegetable seeds, 160,000 pieces of ubi planting materials and 1,000 bags of mango flower inducer. These will be complemented with the development or establishment of 25 springs and 40 drip irrigation systems as source for irrigation for vegetable and commercial crops in affected areas. (RAFID, DA-RFU 7) [top]