ARMM agri losses exceed P140M due to El Niño, rat infestation
COTABATO CITY – The dry spell has already destroyed more than P140 million worth of agricultural crops in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), agriculture officials said on Monday.
Alexander Alonto, regional secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF-ARMM), said the amount could still increase as not all provincial agriculture officers have submitted their reports to his office here.
Aside from the drought and lack of water for rice fields, farmers in the region have been fighting off rat infestation.
Alonto said the crops destroyed by the long dry spell rose to P124 million while losses arising from rat attacks have reached P16 million in Maguindanao alone.
Alonto said the crop damage report from Lanao del Sur had not reached his office, as of Monday, because the field assessment and evaluation were still going on.
Citing data from agriculture officials, Alonto said Maguindanao suffered the most because “most of its agricultural products are already in their vegetative stage.”
Drought and rat infestation destroyed about P94 million in Maguindanao alone, affecting 21,000 farmers in 15 towns, he said.
Alonto said 11 of Maguindanao’s 36 towns have been affected by rodent infestation and 12,000 farmers have suffered losses.
In the town of Pigcawayan in North Cotabato, Muslim farmers have become helpless in rat attacks, and would rather wait for assistance from the government.
“Our ready-to-harvest palay was destroyed by rats,” farmer Aliuden Ibrahim.
Farmers in Kabacan town in North Cotabato have resorted to killing rodents to slow down the spread of the infestation and to receive rice in exchange for rat tails submitted to Kabacan local government.
For every 500 rat tails, a farmer gets 50 kilograms of rice.
But farmers in Pigcawayan said they have decided not to kill rats.
“Our belief is the more you kill rats the more it will get back at you, your clothes, your valuables or your work animals, so we do not kill them,” Ibrahim said in Filipino.
In Davao del Sur, the Department of Agriculture has stopped its cloud seeding operations and has run out of budget.
Nally Bangoy, head of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG), said the DA allocated only P4 million for a 45-minute cloud seeding operation every day from Jan. 26 to 31.
Farmers, however, are asking the DA to conduct more cloud seeding operations.
Farmer Aquilina Mendoza, 84, said the DA could provide them with water pumps that would provide irrigation to their farms.
Mendoza expects to lose 11 sacks of palay from her drought-hit one-and-a-half hectare rice farm.
The OPAG said at least 27,124 hectares of rice farm in Davao del Sur and Davao Occidental have been affected by the El Niño. SFM
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