RICE CROP losses due to the El Niño weather pattern has jumped to P109.44 million from around P700,000 last week, according to the latest report from the Department of Agriculture (DA).

In its second El Niño bulletin, the DA recorded a total of 4,748 metric tons of rice crops damaged across 2,117 hectares of farms in Western Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula. The losses have hit 2,602 farmers.

Meanwhile, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said 20% of agricultural production may be affected by the ongoing El Niño.

“About 20% will be affected by El Niño,” said NIA Administrator Eduardo Eddie G. Guillen in an interview with the state television. “But if high-yielding crops are planted, rice production won’t go down,” in an interview with PTV.

State weather specialists said El Niño in the country is projected to last until the second quarter, bringing dry spells to 63 provinces.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said a strong and mature El Niño as experienced now is projected to continue through February, a transition to ENSO-neutral (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) is then expected in the second quarter.

Weather conditions that are classified as neither El Niño nor La Niña are considered to be an ENSO-neutral occurrence, PAGASA said. — Adrian H. Halili