Farmers pray for rain to wash ash from farms
TAGAYTAY CITY—Idelfonso de Leon, 69, a coffee farmer, was looking forward to this year’s harvest, as demand for coffee began to pick up in recent years.
But all his excitement was gone soon after thick volcanic ash from the Taal Volcano blanketed his 3-hectare coffee farm at Barangay Pook in Silang town, Cavite province.
The ash also covered hectares of pineapple, rice and other high-value crops both in Cavite and Batangas province.
A report from the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Thursday said the damage and losses had reached P3.22 billion, across 16,150 ha of farmlands. At least 55,881 farm animals had died.
Acidic“It’s actually [coffee] harvest season right now,” said Arnel de Mesa, DA director in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon).
Coffee is harvested only once a year.
Major products of Silang and Lipa City in Batangas, coffee and pineapples were the hardest hit crops, De Mesa told the Inquirer by telephone.
For instance, in De Leon’s case, the coffee leaves collected heavy ash that caused them to wither. De Mesa said the volcanic ash was too “acidic” it also made the fruits rot.
Normally, De Leon said, he could harvest as much as 100 “cavans” (each cavan is worth about P1,600) from his coffee farm. But this time, he could recover only about 20 cavans.
In Cavite, most coffee farms affected by the ashfall were on the eastern side of Silang.The DA said the coffee industry lost P360.49 million, affecting 5,335 farmers. Losses from pineapples amounted to P527.25 million, coconuts P188 million and bananas P138.59 million.
The region’s livestock industry lost P126.34 million while fisheries lost P1.6 billion after thousands of fish cages across Taal Lake were damaged or abandoned.
Over the weekend, the DA distributed water power sprayers to affected coffee farmers. The government also offered them interest-free loans.
But the sprays did not do them good to wash away the ash or worse, only made the remaining flowers and coffee cherries fall off even when they were not supposed to.
In the case of pineapples, the ash had already collected and seeped inside the slips and leaves. “I’ve met with fellow farmers today and all we could pray for was for the rainy season to come early. We don’t know, but we still have summer coming up,” De Leon said.
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