The Department of Agriculture (DA) assured the public that the government is preparing for the worst-case scenario with regard to the supply of rice amid the threat of the El Niño phenomenon.
Agriculture Assistant Secretary and Deputy Spokesman Rex Estoperez said the DA considers El Niño like other calamity because its impact on agricultural production is similar to typhoons.
“The impact could be similar if we have calamities like typhoons, as it could affect our rice production. The NFA (National Food Authority) is tasked to buy palay for the country’s buffer stock, but if worse comes to worst based on Republic Act 11203, we have the Rice Tariffication Law. We can import in case there would be a shortage in the rice supply,” Estoperez said.
The nation brought in at least 3.8 million metric tons of rice last year.
“We need to have at least a 52-day rice inventory. If the NFA fails to achieve it, we will definitely need to import,” Estoperez said.
The DA stated that while the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) predicted that the Visayas and Mindanao would be most affected by the drought, the bureau also anticipated the need for preparations in Luzon and the rest of the country.
“We are an agricultural country so our interventions covered all the production areas. For Mindanao, we don’t only have palay, we have corn and fruits. In Visayas, we also have palay so we don’t have preference. It’s a matter of prioritizing the assistance to them in terms of what kind of assistance we could provide in preparation for the effect of the El Niño,” Estoperez stated.
According to him, one of the important steps to stop water supply waste is to fix irrigation system leaks.
He added that they are encouraging farmers to plant different types of crops that are resilient or can withstand the heat.
“We are coordinating with other agencies, especially with our attached agencies like the National Irrigation Administration and the Bureau of Soil and Water Management, to unify our strategies for the looming El Niño,” Estoperez said.
He emphasized that cloud seeding would be the government’s final resort for supplying water for agricultural systems.
El Niño could develop in July, August, or September of this year and could endure until 2024, according to PAGASA’s initial forecasts.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of Canva