Losses in rice and corn crops due to a drought this year have already amounted to P3.3 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA), which is conducting cloud seeding operations to induce rain in various provinces.
In a report, the DA said the drought, induced by the so-called El Nino phenomenon, has caused damage comparable to a strong typhoon.
Weather forecasters warn the worst is yet to come. The El Nino, a phenomenon characterized by the unusual warming of ocean surfaces that is associated with drought and other extreme weather conditions, is expected to peak late this month and will last up to the first quarter of next year.
Already, about 65,855 farmers are affected, the DA said.
In terms of crops, farming losses were greatest for corn farmers, who lost 158,809 tons of the crop (mostly for animal feed) valued at P2.21 billion.
Rice, high-value crops
For rice, a staple grain for Filipino consumers, about 58,485 tons were lost, valued at P1.09 billion.
Damage to high-value crops such as fruits, vegetables and coffee were said to have reached 1,086 tons valued at P19.56 million.
Reports on livestock losses have so far been minimal at P11,000.
In terms of area, Cagayan Valley suffered the most with P1.159 billion in reported farming losses.
Soccsksargen was next with P980.94 million, followed by Northern Mindanao (P762 million), Caraga (P154.5 million), Mimaropa (P97.89 million), Davao (P69.67 million), Bicol (P58.54 million), Zamboanga Peninsula (P20.38 million) and Ilocos (18.84 billion).
Cloud seeding operations
Cloud seeding operations have been conducted in Negros Occidental, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan and Pampanga between April and June. There were similar operations in Northern Mindanao (Lake Lanao) between June and September; Cagayan Valley (Isabela and Cagayan) between Aug. 10 and 28; and in Ilocos (La Union) between Aug. 20 and 24.
Another cloud seeding operation is being arranged for Central Visayas (Bohol) in coordination with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, which needs to issue a clearance for the operation.
A cloud seeding operation in Zamboanga Peninsula (Zamboanga Norte and Zamboanga City) was deferred due to a request of the local government unit, which cited monsoon rains (habagat).
The DA said it has also distributed pump and engine sets and open source pumps, and has released funds for the concreting of irrigation canals.