DA rice program moves to protect Christmas crop

THE National Rice Program of the Department of Agriculture this week ordered all regional field units nationwide to create El Nino Action Teams to assess and anticipate the effects of a possible dry spell beginning this October until the Christmas season.

Assistant Secretary Dante S. Delima, national rice program coordinator, issued the order on September 12 as a result of findings of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (PAGASA) that the last quarter of the year might be prone to the El Nino phenomenon.

“As forecast, El Nino is seen to adversely affect large portions of Luzon, and other parts of the country with drought-like effects at a time when heavy rainfall is traditionally expected. This phenomenon will undoubtedly affect rice production in our rainfed areas, while critically placing water supply in our irrigation facilities at dangerous levels,” Delima said in his order.

He cited the report of PAGASA Senior Weather Specialist Anthony Joseph Lucero in the 56th Climate Forum on September 07, 2012 about the impending dry spell.
The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) has projected that rice production for the second half of 2012 is forecast at 9.92 million MT, 8.9% higher than last year’s level of 9.11 million MT.

Based on standing crop, production of palay for July to September 2012 may reach 3.56 million MT, some 12.3% above last year’s 3.17 million MT, the bureau said.
BAS data also indicate that based on farmers’ planting intentions, the October to December 2012 palay output is forecast at 6.36 million MT, 7.1% above last year’s 5.94 million MT.

Delima mandated field units to create their own Regional El Nino Action Team (RENACT), to be led by the Regional Executive Director as chairperson, the regional rice coordinators, regional information officers, regional focal persons from the NIA, BSWM, ATI, BPI, IA Regional Presidents, and other pertinent officials of DA.

The action teams should also coordinate with corresponding local government units and Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils.

Once created, the teams shall immediately convene to assess the rice situation in their region, get updates from the appropriate regional or national government agencies, and plan out activities or interventions in consideration of the impending effects of El Nino and other climate change-related phenomena to rice production, Delima said.

Action planning workshops should be undertaken, to assess the projected impact of El Nino on regional rice production, broken down into the provincial level, and considering various possible scenarios, he added.

“Mitigating measures should be identified to minimize the projected impact of El Nino on rice production, along with its budget requirements, monitoring and reporting mechanisms, and information management strategies in all stages should be in place,” Delima said.

Earlier this year, the country’s January-June 2012 palay production was 7.89 million MT, 4.2% higher than last year’s level of 7.58 million MT.

Increases in production were reported in Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, MIMAROPA, Northern Mindanao, SOCCSKSARGEN and Caraga. Cagayan Valley posted the biggest production increment of 204.6 thousand MT, the BAS data said.

If the threat of El Nino in the fourth quarter does not materialize or is properly addressed, BAS forecasts bigger production increments in Central Luzon by around 282 thousand MT; Ilocos Region, 59 thousand MT; Western Visayas, 91 thousand MT; and MIMAROPA, 72 thousand MT.

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