THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said El Niño damage as of April 25 to rice, corn, fisheries, and high-value crops has climbed to P7.96 billion with an estimated volume of 447,889 metric tons (MT) worth of output lost.

The DA estimated on Thursday that the dry spell has affected 277,889 hectares of agricultural land and 247,610 farmers and fisherfolk.

Its estimate as of April 2 was at P5.05 billion.

Specifically for rice and corn, damage to rice doubled to P4.04 billion and lost volume of 191,761 MT affecting 144,202 hectares and 140,387 farmers, while damage estimated for corn also went up to P3.89 billion and 254,766 MT worth of lost production affecting 133,007 hectares of land and 105,937 farmers.

Despite these losses, DA Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said the government’s agriculture production targets can still be attained.

“Despite the impact of El Niño to rice and corn production, their respective production targets can still be met as reported losses are only 0.96% (197,700 MT) of the 20 million MT target for rice and only 2.94% (254,766 MT) of the 8.64 million MT target for corn,” he noted in a social media post on Thursday.

All regions have reported being affected by the phenomenon, but the most affected regions were Region II (Cagayan Valley), which accounted for 33.6% of the damage, and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), which accounted for 19.54% of the damage.

The DA said it has already provided support farmers and fisherfolk affected through insurance and emergency loans.

“To date, the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) has allotted P95.875 million of financial assistance under the Survival and Recovery Assistance (SURE) Program to benefit 3,835 affected farmers. In addition, the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) has paid P264.515 million of insurance to 24,119 farmers,” Mr. Piñol noted.

He also said that despite the dry spell, Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, and Ilocos reported higher yields.

For Central Luzon, its harvest for the year is 22% higher than the 1.8 million MT recorded in 2018. For Cagayan Valley, its harvest for the year is higher by 2.16% to 1.511 million MT from 1.478 million MT, while for the Ilocos region, an increase of 14.4% to 560,896 MT from 490,108 was recorded.

The increase was attributed to increased use of good quality seeds. Other interventions such as free seeds, mechanization, irrigation, and fertilization are expected to fuel production in 2020.

Last year, rice production went down to 19.05 million MT due to over 20 typhoons that hit the country. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang