Press Release
March 24, 2010


NP-NPC-LDP vice presidential bet Loren Legarda vows to support corn farmers as they sustain the greatest injury from the prolonged dry spell caused by the El Nino phenomenon. Loren urged farmers' organizations to be vigilant in monitoring the implementation of emergency measures undertaken by the Department of Agriculture. The funds should be prioritized to address the most urgent needs like shallow tube wells, irrigation pumps and fuel to the hardest hit areas. Funds should also be allocated to help farmers diversify to crops that are more resistant to drought, such as vegetables. In Ilocos Sur, for example, tobacco farming is a viable alternative crop while the drought persists.

The Department of Agriculture has estimated damage to agriculture to total of Php11 billion, with rice and corn accounting for half of the total amount. Official documents showed that the total damage reported as of Feb. 8 included P1.05 billion worth of corn, P343 million worth of rice and P1.39 million worth of high-value crops. Volume-wise, 80,930 tons of corn, 20,183 tons of rice and 182 tons of high-value crops such as fruits and vegetables have been damaged.

The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics reported that corn production for the January-June 2010 period was forecast at 3.21 million metric tons (MT), or 0.29-percent less than the 2009 level. The decline was attributed to a 1.43-percent contraction or 17,000 hectares of harvest area. "This could largely be observed in Cagayan Valley, Western Visayas and Soccsksargen," BAS said in a report.

In 2009, corn managed to post a 1.53-percent increase in production given increases in area harvested and yield per hectare.

"While we all look forward to the coming of the rains in June, the government should learn from this experience and put up medium term measures to cushion farmers from a likely recurrence in the future," Legarda said. "There are places like Urdaneta and Villasis in Pangasinan which stand out as models to demonstrate that national and provincial governments working together can rehabilitate irrigation systemsto tide farmers over even in times of prolonged dry spells. Because of the investment in the San Roque Dam and the irrigation system, more than 700 farmers belonging to the UrVil Irrigators Association tilling 1,000 hectares of land are spared from the dry spell."

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