By Cielito M. Reganit
MANILA, Dec. 13 (PNA) — Palay and corn outputs for the whole of 2015 may be lower than their respective 2014 levels due to the adverse effects of natural calamities and the El Niño phenomenon in the second half of the year, an official of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Sunday.
Agriculture Assistant Secretary Edilberto de Luna, the National Rice and Corn Program coordinator, said that palay output for the whole year is forecast at 18.30 million metric tons (MMT), or 3.54 percent below the 2014 output of 18.97 MMT.
Meanwhile, expected corn production for the year is at 7.55 MMT, which is lower by 2.8 percent than the 2014 level of 7.77 MMT.
“The downtrend was largely attributed to the substantial losses incurred during typhoons “Egay: and “Ineng” on the July-September 2015 crop and typhoon “Lando” during the last quarter harvest,” he said.
“The adverse effects of El Niño, which started to manifest as early as the second quarter of the year also resulted to huge foregone damages incurred due to unrealized planting of crops because of severe water shortage,” De Luna said.
Meanwhile, authorities have also anticipated a decrease in production areas due to the aforementioned factors.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), palay harvest areas may have contracted by as much as 1.58 percent — from 4.74 million hectares last year to 4.66 million hectares this year — mainly due to the El Niño phenomenon.
All regions except for Bicol Region reported reductions in production and harvest area.
These were attributed to unrealized plantings as a result of delayed release and inadequate irrigation water, late occurrence of rains, and some areas left in-fallow.
Typhoons Egay, Ineng, Kabayan and Lando caused damages in the production areas in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Western Visayas.
There were also reports of damages to palay farms due to pest infestation in the province of North Cotabato.
On the other hand, the Bicol Region saw increased production due to the recovery of damaged areas caused by typhoon Glenda last year.
For corn, the PSA said harvest may have shrunken to 2.57 million hectares, 1.73 percent lower than last year’s 2.61 million hectares.
Decrease in production in Cagayan Valley is seen due to unrealized planting intentions in Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya caused by the dry spell; damaged areas due to typhoons “Ineng” and “Lando” in key production areas of the region; and shifting from corn to cassava and mongo.
On the brighter side, De Luna said that palay and corn jarvests are expected to rebound in the first quarter of 2016.
He said that based on farmers’ planting intentions, the January-March 2016 palay and corn harvests may exceed their respective records in 2015 by 0.31 percent and 0.48 percent, respectively.
The January-March 2016 forecasts for palay indicate an increase in production from 4.37 MMT in 2015 to 4.38 MMT in 2016.
For corn, the January-March 2016 is forecast to increase from 2.37 MMT in 2015 to 2.38 MMT in 2016.
The PSA noted that almost all regions expect increases in corn production with probable higher outputs seen in SOCCSKSARGEN, Ilocos Region, Davao Region and Northern Mindanao.
In SOCCSKSARGEN, more farmers intend to plant earlier due to the pronouncement of a stronger El Niño in the succeeding quarter.
In Ilocos Region, shifting from palay to corn, utilization of in-fallow areas due to availability of seeds, movement of cropping from the 4th quarter and usage of high quality seeds may contribute to increase in production.
In Davao Region, shifting from banana and rain-fed palay to corn and availability of seed assistance from the local government units (LGUs) may boost production in the first quarter of 2016.
In Northern Mindanao, movement of planting from 4th quarter to 1st quarter, seed subsidy from LGUs thru “plant-now-pay-later” program and shifting from cassava to corn may bring about higher production.
The agriculture official said that the early 2016 rebound could be attributed to the immediate actions of the DA to mitigate the losses this year.
“The DA immediately distributed 150,000 bags of seeds to Lando-affected farmers to replace their damaged crops. Likewise, pro-active interventions by the agency to mitigate the impacts of El Niño will be felt by the first quarter of next year,” he said.
Among the interventions instituted by the DA include training farmers on the alternate wet and dry (AWD) irrigation technique, pests and diseases management as well as early planting of crops.
Farmers in areas serviced by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) also benefited from the early release of irrigation water on Nov. 15 instead of the usual Dec. 15 release date.
“We are also happy to note that a PhP 2.1-billion fund for El Niño mitigation would be released by the national government before the year ends,” De Luna said.
The fund would be administered by the DA for water management programs, repair of small-scale irrigation facilities, cloud seeding and the procurement of high quality seeds, among others.
The DA is also expecting the release of another PhP 900 million for the rehabilitation of Lando-affected areas.
But despite these, De Luna said the government is still anticipating decreased yields per hectare due to the adverse effects of a prolonged El Niño phenomenon.
“There will be losses, especially in rain-fed areas. The only way is to lessen the impact to lessen the losses,” he said.
“Since land area planted to rice and corn basically remains the same, one of the major growth drivers would be the utilization of good quality seeds,” he said.
“The establishment of a more effective and efficient irrigation system to impound water during the rainy season for use during prolonged dry spells is also necessary,” De Luna said. (PNA)