THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture (DA) needs to consider developing more climate-resistant crops to mitigate the impact of El Niño on agriculture, a legislator said Sunday.

Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee said in a statement that making climate-resilient crops available to farmers would help achieve food security amid the threat of food shocks due to dry conditions brought about by El Niño.

“We need to utilize and maximize all available agricultural technologies so as to make our farmers more resilient to climate change,” Mr. Lee said in a statement. “Climate-resilient crop varieties are important in achieving food security,” he added.

The DA reported last week that damage to agriculture has been valued at P1.75 billion due to intensifying El Niño conditions, displacing at least 29,437 farmers across 32,231 hectares of affected farmland.

Rice and corn crops sustained most of the damage, valued at P1.1 billion and P317 million, respectively.

“We should now consider developing climate-resilient rice and corn crops to mitigate the effects of El Niño,” Mr. Lee said in Filipino.

While he noted the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has conducted initial studies on climate-resilient staple crops, the government should further “build on this technology” to help farmers reduce their losses.

The IRRI has developed drought-tolerant rice crops such as the Sahod Ulan rice variety released throughout the country. Approved for release last year, Sahod Ulan 39 was the latest drought-resilient rice variety developed by IRRI, which features a fast maturity period and resistance against pests and disease.

“The United States Department of Agriculture has also studied drought-tolerant corn,” Mr. Lee said. “I suggest we proposed a knowledge exchange (program)… so that we could learn their technologies on corn.”

“Farmers will have higher production output, allowing them to rake in profit, should they be provided with climate-resilient crop products,” Mr. Lee said. — Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio