El Niño-hit farmers seek rice subsidy

FARMING FRUSTRATION. All of Iloilo’s 42 towns and lone component city of Passi reported losses these past five months beginning October 2018. The losses due to the El Niño phenomenon covered 27,063.51 hectares of rice fields. These could further increase, warns the Provincial Agriculture Office. IAN PAUL CORDERO/PN

ILOILO – Suffering from the adverse effects of the El Niño phenomenon, a group of farmers appealed for rice subsidy and other assistance from the provincial government.

Over 200 members signed a petition for assistance that the Paghugpong sang mga Mangunguma sa Panay kag Guimaras addressed to Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr.

Led by their chairperson Lucia Capadosio, the farmers sought an audience recently with Defensor. They were feeling the brunt of the phenomenon – characterized by a marked drop in rainfall volume – since October 2018, they said.

Some “70 percent” of farmlands in the province were affected, they added, and the lack of irrigation water was the main problem.

The group specifically sought the following from the provincial government.

* rice subsidy – two sacks every month for each family

* financial assistance – to be released before the start of the first cropping but in the form of free rice seeds, fertilizers and other farm inputs

* support for a shift to organic farming

* moratorium in the payment of loans

According to Capadosio, farmers may be able to plant rice in July yet, citing a forecast of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration that there would be a prolonged dry season, resulting to a delayed onset of the rainy season.

“Kon magtanum ang tawo sa bulan sang Hulyo, buot silingon ang ani sa Oktubre,” said Capadosio.

For his part, Defensor said he would wait for the reports and recommendations of the Provincial Agriculture Office and Department of Agriculture regarding El Niño’s damage to Iloilo’s agriculture.

It remained unclear as of this writing, too, if there would be a declaration of a state of calamity. The governor was yet to convene the Provincial Agriculture Office and Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Last week, the Provincial Agriculture Office said losses in rice production reached P1,025,650,277.63 equivalent to 63,000 metrics tons, and the number of farmers affected 26,966.

All of Iloilo’s 42 towns and lone component city of Passi reported losses these past five months beginning October 2018.

Iloilo province’s losses covered 27,063.51 hectares of rice fields (7,495.42 hectares totally damaged and 19,568.09 hectares partially) out of 31,718.70 hectares of standing crops.

These could further increase, warned PAO assistant chief Elias Sandig Jr.

PAO had yet to factor the losses in other agricultural commodities such as corn, vetagles and livestock.

Data collection is ongoing to determine if a declaration of a state of calamity is warranted, according to Sandig.

The data collection may be completed before the end of April.

For the provincial government to declare a state of calamity at least 20 percent of the population must be ascertained to be affected./PN


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