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Farmers brace for drought in Bicol - DA

By Bobby Q. Labalan

SORSOGON CITY --- Almost 65,000 farmers are to be affected by the abnormal weather condition in Bicol Region which will experience a dry condition starting next month and will worsen into drought by the end of May this year.

This was the projection made by the Department of Agriculture-Bicol as it braces for the worst-case scenario that could hit the agriculture sector starting this first quarter until the second quarter of the year.

In a media briefing held recently at its regional office, the agriculture department said that the end of January, 2024, the provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes may experience dry condition while the provinces of Masbate, Albay, Sorsogon and Camarines Sur will have a struggle with its crop due to rain shortage starting next month. be the crops are newly planted or at reproductive stage especially for palay in rain-fed areas or those at the tail-end of irrigation system.

Lorenzo Alvina, chief of the DA-Bicol Integrated Laboratory Division, said some 81,396 hectares composed of 59,605 hectares of rice fields, 21,423 hectares of corn fields and 368 hectares of high-value crop plantation are considered as vulnerable areas.

This translates to about 136,257 metric tons of rice, 34,577 metric tons of corn and 10,501 metric tons of high-value crops and about 20.394 heads of livestock and poultry, affecting some 65,603 farmers, the official said.

As expected, Camarines Sur will bear the brunt of the affectation, both in number of farmers as well as in extent of area while Catanduanes would have the least, data presented showed.

From 1990 to 2020, the total value of damages due to El Niño has reached PhP1.82 billion covering 60,213 hectares, 76.74 percent of which were rice and 21.83 were corn, the agriculture department reported.

Alvina warned that “common pests and diseases due to high temperature, precipitation and humidity” are likely to occur including “rice blast, sheath blight, sheath rot, bacterial leaf blight, bacterial leaf streak, black bug, green leafhopper, brown planthopper, common armyworm, fall armyworm, bacterial stalk rot, thrips, lepidopterans, hopper, thrips, pod borer, bean black aphids, southern blight, bacterial wilt”.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) had forecast that all six Bicol provinces will start experiencing dry condition by end of February, a dry spell in March and April and drought by May.

PAGASA said a dry condition is characterized by “below normal rainfall condition for two consecutive months”, dry spell is “below normal rain fall condition for three consecutive months or way below normal for two consecutive months”” while drought is below normal rainfall for five consecutive months or way below normal for three months”.

Percentage-wise, “below normal” is equivalent to 41 percent to 80 percent of an area’s normal rainfall while “way below normal” is 40 percent or less than the normal rainfall, the agency explained.

PAGASA’s rainfall chart from 1991 to 2020 put Bicol Region’s normal monthly rainfall at 100 mm but is forecast to be cut by half by the month of May.

Meanwhile, Mary Grace Rodriguez, the DA-Bicol field operation division chief, had assured the public that their office is on top of the situation and is fully prepared to act on the effects of the El Nino.

Rodriguez said that despite this grim prospect, the agriculture department had prepared mitigating and adaptation measures to cushion the impact of El Nino, which include the inventory of irrigation facilities for which P725 million had been allocated for this year, distribution of irrigation pump and sets and climate-controlled greenhouse and swine production.

Also part of this mitigation process is the establishment of “Villages” under the Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA) Program and Adaptation Plans in Agriculture under UNFAO (for implementation 2024-2030), ClimBeR: Building Systemic Resilience Against Climate Variability and Extremes under International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the development of Bicol Agro-Climatic Advisory Portal under UPLB Foundation Inc, she said.

Rodriguez likewise said that their office has stocks of various rice and vegetables seeds that can withstand limited water supply which can be distributed to farmers who would be affected by the drought.

She advised farmers to choose rice and vegetable varieties that are drought-resistant and to ensure that animal shelters are adequately covered and protected.

Farmers must report any and all agriculture damages to the nearest agriculture office so they can be immediately assisted, Rodriguez advised.


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