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‘Maring’ agri damage may drive prices up

/ 05:32 AM October 14, 2021
The Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, Benguet was flooded due to continuous heavy rains brought by Tropical Storm "Maring"

The Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, Benguet was flooded due to continuous heavy rains brought by Tropical Storm “Maring” on Monday. /Photo Courtesy of Leah Lyn Bales

MANILA, Philippines — Corn farmers at Barangay Asinga-Via in Baggao town, Cagayan province, waded through floodwaters on Wednesday to salvage what was left of their crop by the torrential rains from Severe Tropical Storm Maring (international name: Kompasu).

One of them, Irene Pasion, collected the drenched corn from her farm so that her family could still sell them to pay off debts, according to Bobby Dumayag Jr., one of the villagers.

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The corn farms of Baggao were among the many agricultural areas in the northern Philippines that were submerged in the muddy floodwaters which damaged rice and other crops that were supposed to be harvested later this month.

The storm left 17 dead and nine missing, many in landslides, according to figures culled from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and local disaster management officers.

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The Department of Agriculture (DA) estimated that the storm caused losses of at least P608.50 million in the Cagayan Valley, Cordillera, Ilocos, Central Luzon, Bicol, and Western Visayas regions.

The damage and production disruptions caused by the deluge are likely to create supply gaps and push food prices up not only in the affected provinces but the entire Luzon.

The DA said that the storm affected at least 29,063 farmers who produce rice, corn, and high-value crops. About 36,354 metric tons of produce across 32,882 hectares were lost.

Rice took the biggest blow. With the main harvest approaching, P453.8 million worth of the staple was destroyed in flash floods. About P119.8 million worth of corn and P26.2 million in high-value crops also were destroyed, according to the DA.

Livestock and poultry raisers were not spared with P4.7 million in losses, it said.

In Cordillera, Maring destroyed P147 million worth of crops, affecting close to 5,000 upland farmers, according to DA regional director Cameron Odsey.

Damage to Benguet province’s most profitable vegetables, like carrots, cabbage, beans, and lettuce, was estimated at P30.7 million as the floods destroyed about 4,554 MT of the high-value crops.

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Benguet supplies 80 percent of the salad vegetables sold in Metro Manila restaurants, major groceries, and markets.

Possibly worse

The DA said the losses could have been worse had it not been able to advise farmers to harvest early. As a result, P2.08 billion worth of rice and P780 million worth of corn were saved. The amount of damage is expected to go up as more areas become accessible for inspection.

The DA has put aside P750 million of its quick response fund to assist farmers and others during calamities in the fourth quarter. This assistance would include zero-interest loans, free seeds, and indemnities for those insured under the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp.

The 17 who died, based on reports from the NDRRMC and local disaster officers on Wednesday, included four children, two of them girls who were killed with their grandfather in a landslide that buried his hillside house in Baguio City.

The deaths reported on Wednesday included some of the 22 earlier reported as missing, bringing down the number still unaccounted for to nine. Five of them are in Palawan, two in Benguet, and one each in Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan.

Appeal for help

The unusually heavy rains late last week up to early this week caused flash floods that caught people by surprise and unprepared.

In Ilocos Sur, some residents appealed for help and rescue through social media as they climbed rooftops to escape the rising floodwaters.

As a gauge of the volume of rainwater dumped over northern Luzon, 625.5 millimeters of rain fell on Baguio City, more than what it normally receives for the whole month of October within just a 24-hour period ending on Tuesday morning, according to the weather bureau.

The NDRRMC said Maring affected around 6,100 families, or over 21,500 individuals, from 237 barangays in the three northern Luzon regions, Central Luzon and Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan). —WITH REPORTS FROM KARL R. OCAMPO, JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE, VILLAMOR VISAYA JR., VINCENT CABREZA AND ROMAR MIRANDA

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