El Niño crop damage estimate expanded to P4.35 billion

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drought El Niño

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) expanded its estimate for El Niño crop damage, mainly to rice and corn, to P4.35 billion as of March 31, from P1.33 billion on March 19.

On Sunday, the DA said in a report that the damage covers lost output of 233,007 MT, affecting 149,494 hectares and 138,859 farmers and fisherfolk.

Rice damage amounted to P2.69 billion on lost volume loss of 125,589 MT, affecting 111,851 hectares and 108,845 farmers.

Damage to the corn crop on the other hand was P1.65 billion, on volume of 107,416 MT, affecting 37,642 hectares and 30,014 farmers.

Areas declared to be under a state of calamity are Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Sibugay, Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Negros Occidental.

Earlier in the week, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said pending validation of the damage estimates, particularly those from local government unit sources, the department will maintain the 2019 rice production estimate at P20.085 million metric tons (MMT).

“Still 20.085 million MT,” Mr. Piñol told reporters in Makati on Thursday evening. At the time, the DA’s rice loss estimate was just over half the Sunday total at around 120,000 MT.

“Babawiin natin sa wet season (We will try to make up for it in the wet season),” he said Thursday.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported crop damage of P2.67 billion as of March 27, which the DA’s latest estimate has since surpassed.

“We have asked the field offices to validate the numbers because these came from Local Government Units. And we have to understand that (during elections), everybody wants to declare a state of calamity. It will give them access to calamity funds,” Mr. Piñol said

“We are not saying it’s inaccurate but we have to validate that because we will use the estimates (for insurance claims),” Mr. Piñol added.

Former Agriculture Secretary and current President of Inanglupa Movement William D. Dar said the rice output target is challenging but he is hoping for interventions that can be funded by the Rice Tariffication Law.

“It’s a big challenge and hoping that the interventions by government as per the rice tariffication law will help a lot,” Mr. Dar said in a mobile message.

Rolando T. Dy, Executive Director and Full Professor of the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) Center for Food and Agribusiness added that much will depend on late-year planting decisions, which are influenced by perceptions of competition from liberalized rice imports.

“Mahihirapan. (It will be hard to meet the target). First semester is nearly here. So it will be dependent on main plantings mid-June onward for October to December harvest. The peak harvest comprises about 40% of annual [production],” Mr. Dy said in a mobile message.

“Baka bumaba ang plantings (Planting activity may fall) due to El Niño and lower palay prices (due to) cheaper imports,” Mr. Dy added.

Marites M. Tiongco, Dean of the De La Salle University (DLSU) School of Economics, said if farmers fail to produce 20 million MT this year, imported rice can cover demand.

“Any shortage will be covered by importation, more sources of cheaper rice. That is the purpose of the law,” she said in a text message.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has said that the El Niño damage will have minimal impact on economic growth, and any rice lost to the dry spell will be made up for with imports.

“Timing of imports will be right on the dot especially as private importers are quite adept at responding to perceived shortages. They are better at estimating when it is profitable to import and when it is not,” Ernesto M. Pernia, NEDA Secretary, has said.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), rice production in 2018 declined by 1.1% to 19.07 million MT.

The PSA estimated that output of palay, or unmilled rice, was 4.62 million MT in the first quarter, below the 4.65 million MT estimated for the quarter in January.

The Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that rice imports by the Philippines are expected to hit 2.3 million MT annually between 2019 and 2020. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio