THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture (DA) said that El Niño crop damage mainly to rice and corn is now estimated at P5.05 billion, on lost volume of 276,568 metric tons (MT), as a result of the dry spell.

“Everyday that passes where there is no rain, there will be greater damage, and so the total damage to crops, mainly rice and corn, has breached the 5-billion level,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters Tuesday.

The DA estimated Tuesday that the dry spell has affected 177,743 hectares of agricultural land and 164,672 farmers as of April 2.

Its estimate for March 31 was P4.35 billion.

While damage to rice remained relatively stable at P2.69 billion and lost volume of 125,590 MT affecting 111,851 hectares and 108,845 farmers, damage estimates for the corn crop expanded to P2.36 billion and 150,978 MT worth of lost production affecting 65,892 hectares and 55,827 farmers.

Mr. Piñol said that the crop damage mainly hit farmers who risked planting crops after sustaining storm damage in regions II (Cagayan Valley), V (Bicol Region), and X (Northern Mindanao). The DA said Region II accounted for 28% of the damage, Region V 16.54%, and Region X 6.71%.

The Bicol Region was hit by tropical depression Usman in December, which killed at least 50 people, while the region also sustained infrastructure and crop damage worth P1.5 billion.

“Towards the end of the year, nagkaroon ng bagyo sa Bicol [there was a storm in Bicol]. We provided interventions and because there was rain the farmers took the risk and planted again. So this crop sustained the damage and the same applied in Region II,” he said.

He said damage to the rice crop accounted for only 0.63% of the 2019 rice production target of P20.085 million MT (MMT), which remains unchanged. Damage to the corn crop is about 1.2% of the expected total for the year.

“We don’t expect that the damage actually will have an adverse impact on our national production… We are still keeping our national projection of 20 million metric tons (for rice), lower by about 500,000 MT than our previous target,” he said.

“We’re not saying na [that] it’s negligible because P5 billion is P5 billion, but in comparison with our national production target, the loss would only amounts to 0.63%,” he said.

He said the damage is levelling off because all the crops that can be damaged by the dry spell have been damaged, with no new planting in the last two months. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang