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Reduced rice output seen

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:01:00 10/19/2010

Filed Under: rice problem, Weather, Agriculture, Forecasts

MANILA, Philippines?A state of calamity was declared in Isabela province Monday after Super-typhoon ?Juan? made landfall and threatened to wipe out the region?s rice crop.

The supertyphoon is expected to cause a power shortage in northern Luzon in the short term. By the end of the year, however, the country is expected to suffer ?reduced? rice output due to the projected damage caused by the supertyphoon in major rice-producing provinces, officials said.

The National Food Authority (NFA) has assured the public that it has enough rice in warehouses, allaying fears of rice shortage in the next few weeks.

Andrew Villacorta, executive director in the agriculture department in Cagayan Valley, said the region accounted for 12 percent of national rice output, or about 1 million tons of unmilled rice.

?Isabela and Cagayan are expected to be hit hard,? Villacorta said. ?Our estimates showed about 159,000 metric tons will be lost from Isabela. About 88,000 hectares will be affected. In Cagayan province, about 43,000 ha will be affected. The estimated loss will be around 63,000 MT.?

Villacorta said just over one third of the crop had been harvested, although 90 percent of the corn crop had been harvested.

State of calamity

Local officials in Isabela declared a state of calamity so they may be able to ensure food and energy supply as well as spend more on rescue, relief and rehabilitation work after the typhoon leaves.

Officials said the US military, which is holding a nine-day drill with Filipino counterparts, had offered seven helicopters to deliver relief goods and rescue marooned residents if needed.

Lt. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan, head of the military in northern Luzon, said Juan?s fury was felt in Cagayan and Isabela.

?There?s almost zero visibility in some areas due to heavy rain and strong wind,? Pangilinan said. ?We expect extensive damage on property and agriculture. We?re still validating reports from the field.?

?This could bring destruction to our crops,? Val Perdido, a regional agriculture official, told reporters. ?It?s the peak of harvest season now. More than 230,000 ha of rice fields are still in their reproductive and maturing stages.?

Field reports

The NFA said reports from its field officers in Isabela, the country?s second largest rice-producing province, showed that only 30 percent of palay planted on 132,316 ha had been harvested by Friday.

The farmlands had 69,650 MT of rice ready for harvest, according to NFA Administrator Angelito Banayo.

?They continued harvesting on Saturday and Sunday, but we still don?t know how much they were able to save,? he said.

Banayo said the NFA was also monitoring the damage to agriculture in Nueva Ecija, the largest rice producer. Storm Signal No. 2 was hoisted over the Nueva Ecija as well as Pangasinan, another major rice-producing province.

As long as the typhoon would not linger over central Luzon, the loss would be manageable, Banayo said.

He said it would be easier to salvage palay if farmlands did not get flooded. Public and private drying facilities were already on standby, he said.

NFA warehouse damaged

Banayo reported that an NFA warehouse in Isabela with 10,000 bags of rice was damaged. Another warehouse with corn was affected by rainwater.

Asked if the Philippines, the world?s largest rice importer, would import rice due to the losses incurred from Juan, Banayo said it was still too early to tell.

He said the yield in Mindanao could offset some of the losses in Luzon.

Last year, the country lost 1.3 million tons of paddy rice following three strong typhoons in September and October, prompting it to go to the market early to boost its stocks.

Agricultural production makes up a fifth of the country?s gross domestic product.

Rice production

The agriculture department recently disclosed that 6.6 million tons of rice were produced in the first half of the year, down from the 7.3 million tons in the same period last year.

In August, Banayo said the government should wait for a few months to see if rice production would pick up.

He said the government should decide on issuing tenders by the end of October, when the harvest shall have started.

Good for 52 days

The NFA has a rice inventory of 37.5 million bags, sufficient to meet the country?s food security requirement for 52 days, Banayo said.

He appealed to traders in regions hit by Juan not to depress their buying rice for palay so that the farmers could recoup their investment. Traders with dryers have been actively buying wet unmilled rice from farmers at P11?P12 a kilo.

The NFA will be fielding Palengke Watch monitoring teams to check the rice market supply and prevent any attempt to manipulate price and supply, especially during a calamity situation, Banayo said.

The NFA chief also appealed to traders to keep the retail price of rice affordable to consumers.

?By simply maintaining continuous flow of rice in the market, that would already assure price stability,? Banayo said. Reports from Reuters and Kristine L. Alave

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