Some Quezon farmers skip rice planting on El Niño fears

Lady Vicencio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2023 04:39 PM

38 provinces may be affected by dry spell, drought later this year: PAGASA

MANILA — Rice farmers in the Quezon province are concerned over the looming impact of El Niño on their crops and livelihood.

Rene Cerilla said that some of them did not bother planting palay this season out of fear of losing money if a dry spell or drought strikes.

“Kami rito natatakot. ‘Yong iba, nakikipagsapalaran. Halos 10 percent lang ng kabuuang lawak ng palayan ang may tanim,” Cerilla said.

(We here are afraid. Others are taking risks. Only about 10 percent of the total rice field area is cultivated)

During the Tugon Kabuhayan forum the state weather bureau PAGASA estimated that dry spells and drought may affect several provinces by year-end due to the looming El Niño.

PAGASA said 36 provinces may experience dry spells by the end of December, while 2 provinces may see "meteorological drought," PAGASA Assistant Weather Services Chief Ana Solis said in a Tugon Kabuhayan forum.

Dry spells and droughts vary in terms of the reduced amount of rainfall and the duration, PAGASA said.
“’Pag sinabing dry spell, at least dalawang buwan na sobrang 60 percemt ang reduction sa tubig-ulan or tatlong buwan na sunod-sunod na may reduction ng 41 to 60 percent sa tubig-ulan," Solis said.

(When we say "dry spell," it means at least two consecutive months with a significant 60 percent reduction in rainfall or three consecutive months with a reduction of 41 to 60 percent in rainfall)

"Pag sinabing meteorological drought, tatlong buwan na sunod-sunod na more than 60 percent ang reduction sa tubig-ulan o limang buwan na sunod-sunod na may reduction na around 21 to 60 percent reduction sa tubig-ulan,” she added.

(When we say "meteorological drought," it refers to a consecutive three-month period with a reduction of more than 60 percent in rainfall, or a consecutive five-month period with a reduction ranging from around 21 to 60 percent in rainfall)
But Solis said the impact of El Niño would vary depending on each region's climate type. Some areas in Luzon may experience reduction in rainfall as early as October.

“’Pag sinabing El Niño, it doesn’t always mean drought. It just gives you the possibility na mas mataas ang posibilidad ng potential ng reduction ng ulan ang posibleng mauwi sa dry spell o drought,” Solis explained.

(When we say "El Niño," it doesn't always imply drought. It simply indicates a higher likelihood of potential rainfall reduction that could lead to a dry spell or drought)


Federation of Free Farmers Cooperatives, Inc. National Manager Raul Montemayor said separate weather forecasts for farmers could be of help for mitigation planning.

Based on historical data, Montemayor said there was a 24 percent drop in palay production when El Niño hit the country in 1997 to 1998.

"Maganda sana i-correlate ito doon sa sinasabi ng taga-PAGASA. If you are predicting such percentage of intensity of El Niño, ganoon din ba noong 1997, 1998? Ganoon din ba katindi ‘yong El Niño na parating? Are we looking again at a 24% drop?" he said.

Montemayor echoed the Department of Agriculture’s earlier projection that some palay-producing areas might benefit from the El Niño, particularly when the onset of dry episodes happen as expected during the main harvest season.

But problems with rice supply may be felt next year with the limited water supply in reservoirs this year, he said.

"Ang problema natin hindi marereplenish ang dam natin dahil mahina ang ulan. Pagpalagay na natin kahit papaano may decline in production and there might be lower imports dahil tumataas din ang international productions pero we will have enough stocks until the end of the year,” Montemayor said.

(Our problem is that our dams cannot be replenished because of the weak rainfall. Let's assume that there will be a decline in production and lower imports due to the increase in international productions, but we will have enough stocks until the end of the year)

He said the the dry season crop for the first semester of 2024 maybe affected. "Pagdating ng lean months next year there will be no stocks,” Montemayor added.

A decline in local rice production will also translate to higher prices, according to Montemayor, especially since the El Niño event could potentially impact other rice-producing countries as well.

An increase in demand from Indonesia and China could trigger higher import prices from top rice exporter Vietnam as supply dwindles.

Rice Watch Action Network Executive Director Hazel Tanchuling said mitigation plans should be in place should the El Niño effect would have prolonged impact.

“Isang kailangan tignan, ‘yong gaano katagal ‘yong impact ng potential El Niño this time. Kung magtatagal siya, even the water sources kasalukuyan ay matutuyo din siya,” Tanchuling said. 

(One important thing to consider is the duration of the impact of the potential El Niño this time. If it prolongs, even the current water sources will eventually dry up)

But Solid said the government is more equipped today with technologies, innovations, and programs that were not available in the past. These may be used as an advantage should a strong El Niño hit again this year, she said.


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