LOST RICE production accounted for the vast majority of the initial estimates of agriculture damage due to Typhoon Ompong (international name: Mangkhut), reckoned at P4.97 billion out of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) preliminary crop damage estimate of P4.99 billion Monday.
The estimate issued by the DA’s Disaster Risk Reduction Management on Monday does not include data from northeastern Luzon, specifically the Cagayan Valley region that was directly in the path of the typhoon, where communications may still be unreliable. The DA was also awaiting reports from the hard-hit Cordillera region, an important vegetable farming area.
Reuters, quoting Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, who was speaking in an appearance on CNN Philippines, said total crop damage from all types of produce could hit “P11 to P12 billion” when all reports come in. Reuters said the DA’s damage assessment was P9.6 billion as of midday Monday.
The DRRM damage assessment covers 175,485 hectares of agricultural land in the Ilocos, Central Luzon and Calabarzon regions with the volume of lost production at 251,933 metric tons, the DA said.
According to DA DRRM, Central Luzon accounted for P2.89 billion or 58% of the initial damage estimate. Losses in the rice-growing Central Luzon province of Nueva Ecija amounted to P2.84 billion, while Ilocos Norte, the province in Ilocos Region closest to the track of the typhoon, lost P2.06 billion.
Rice accounted for 99.35% or P4.97 billion affecting 913 farmers in Ilocos Norte, Aurora, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Cavite, Rizal and Quezon, the DA said.
“The vast increase in the overall damage and losses are attributed to the reports in the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Aurora, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, and Pampanga, particularly in rice, corn and irrigation facilities,” the DA DRRM said.
“The projected damage and losses before the landfall of typhoon Ompong are smaller than the actual values reported since it was predicted that Batanes and Cagayan are the areas that will be heavily affected. However, due to the change in path and the wider area covered by the typhoon between Sept. 13 and 14, rice fields in Region III (Central Luzon) were also heavily affected. Most of these affected crops in the region are on their reproductive and maturity stages,” the DA added.
Corn production losses, meanwhile, amounted to P16.73 million affecting a total of 183 hectares in Aurora, with estimated lost production estimated at 1,204 metric tons, all of which of which were in their reproductive stages.
The initial estimate for high-value crop losses was P12,500, while damage to irrigation in Ilocos Norte was reckoned at P15.72 million, including Small-Water Impounding Projects (SWIP), impounding dams and spillways.
The initial assessment for provinces south and east of Metro Manila was P10.62-million, affecting 270 hectares in Rizal, Quezon and Cavite. Volume was estimated at 620 metric tons, and included rice and high-value crops such as eggplant and sweet potato.
Reports from the Cordillera Administrative Region and the Cagayan Valley remain pending, according to DA DRRM.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said that there might be a need to import more round scad, or galunggong, on top of the 17,000 metric tons of the fish scheduled to arrive starting September, due to the damage caused by the typhoon.
In an interview with reporters on Monday, BFAR National Director Eduardo B. Gongona said the agency is expecting a shortfall in the fish supply due to likely damage to aquaculture.
“Many fish cages and fish farms were affected, so that (adds weight) to speculation that we need more imports,” Mr. Gongona said.
Mr. Gongona cited Laguna and Batangas as possible areas that might be tapped for more supply, as well as Iloilo and parts of Mindanao.
“Otherwise, we have to import,” he said, though the actual supply levels are still being assessed. Davao is requesting imports, and talks are ongoing,” Mr. Gongona added.
The closed fishing season for galunggong will begin in November. Some 80% of the galunggong imports will go to the commercial sector, while 20% is set to be received by cooperatives.
Mr. Gongona said that the Philippines is only 92% sufficient in fish, and he hopes to close the 8% supply gap in two to four years, with every percentage point equivalent to 84,000 metric tons.
He said closing the gap is doable and added that imports will be resorted to only “during the lean months,” Mr. Gongona said.
According to Mr. Gongona, 60% of the country’s fish output is maritime, while 40% is from aquaculture. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio