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Latest climate impacts won’t spoil Bicol’s rice self-sufficiency this year, says DA

While recent climate impacts brought by prolonged summer and the onslaught of typhoon "Glenda" could trim down this year’s overall performance of Bicol’s rice sector, local agriculture authorities believe it would not impair the rice self-sufficient status that the region has earlier achieved.

According to the regional office here of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the late onset of the rainy season for the third quarter cropping season, which forced Bicol rice farmers to move their May-June rice planting period to July-August, is expected to decrease the region’s total palay harvest this year by 62,189 metric tons (MTs), or 27.29 percent lower compared to the same period last year.

Abelardo Bragas, DA’s regional executive director, revealed this over the weekend, citing a recent report submitted by Cesar Calleja, the regional head of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS).

In addition, Calleja’s report noted about 28,400 hectares of rice plants most of them in vegetative stage were destroyed by Glenda, which ravaged Bicol last July 15.

The BAS translate the extent of this destruction to around 97,898 MTs of rice production losses for the region, Bragas said.

All in all, Bicol’s rice sector would be losing 160,087 MTs in palay yield to these twin climate troubles this year, he said, while assuring that the region’s rice self-sufficiency (RSS) status realized last year would not be disturbed by these production losses, given that DA has swiftly put in place packages of response toward instant farm recovery.

“As soon as the debris left by the typhoon had been cleared two weeks later, we immediately launched the Bicol Rehabilitation Assistance for Glenda in the Agriculture Sector, which is a massive rehabilitation-recovery effort to recoup production losses before the end of the year,” Bragas said.

The rehabilitation assistance, he said, initially provided 6,000 bags of certified rice seeds which were distributed for free to affected farmers in the provinces of Sorsogon, Albay and Camarines Sur during the series of visits made by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala in line with the project launch.

As the project moved, the initial figure reached 10,065 bags of the same kind of seeds distributed to the region’s six provinces as of last week, according to Bragas.

At the same time, the DA regional chief said a total of 18,370 bags of fertilizers good for 9,185 hectares of rice farm were distributed to the same recipients while farm machineries were made available for farmers’ use as additional assistance.

The target of these emergency interventions is to immediately rehabilitate the 28,400-hectare damaged rice areas to generate around 106,945 metric tons in additional palay production, which is nearly enough to cover the foreseen production shortfall, he said.

And even if the rehabilitation efforts would be effective only in 50 percent of the damaged area or about 14,200 hectares, it would still generate 53,472 MTs of palay or short by 9,050 MTs of the region’s production target for the year but enough to come up with an increase of 2.65 percent or an additional 32,916 MTs over last year’s production.

Bragas said this would mean Bicol remains rice self-sufficient to the fact that the region’s palay production during the first semester of this year increased by 3.08 percent or 19,231 MTs compared to the same period last year.

Bicol’s palay production last year was placed at 1.2 MTs, which represented 99.75 percent of the target and recorded a 5.96-percent production growth rate over 2012.

With that, Bicol achieved a 118.19-percent RSS level, which means Bicolano farmers produced 18.19 percent more than the amount local consumers could eat.

Palay yield also increased from 3.51 MTs per hectare in 2012 to 3.62 MTs last year, representing a 3.13-percent growth rate, DA records show.

For that achievement, Bicol ranked sixth in production performance among the country’s 16 rice-producing regions and contributed 6.74 percent to the over-all national rice production last year.

The region’s record of RSS is always through self-help and active participation of those involved in the production and in line with the government's strategy for the country to meet RSS wherein Pres. Benigno Aquino III has emphasized the need for an intensified information campaign and social marketing to encourage producers, consumers and policymakers to help achieve such goal.

Such goal requires a sustained and nationwide campaign to boost farmers' morale and motivate them to adopt technologies to further improve farm productivity and encourage the general public to be responsible rice consumers are necessary to complement the government's efforts to achieve rice self-sufficiency, Bragas quoted the President as saying. --by Danny Calleja (PNA)

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