The damage to crops in Western Visayas due to the El Niño phenomenon’s dry spell has reached more than P760 million as of March 14, based on the report of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

During the first quarter Disaster Response Committee meeting in Iloilo City, the DA disclosed that there is a decrease in the total area affected compared to previous El Niño occurrences.

Based on the report, DA attributed this to the early information and education campaign activities, as well as the early preparations of the local government units, which contributed to this reduction.

The latest progress report showed that El Niño has now affected a total of 15,417.19 hectares of planted areas of rice, corn, and high-value crops in the region, resulting in a total production loss of P761,240,675.78.

DA Disaster Risk Reduction and Management focal person Jimmy Eledia, Jr. said that the total affected area of the dry season reaches 15,417.19 hectares, or only 5.82 percent of the 264,828.56 total hectares of planted area in the region, with a cropping period that starts from Sept. 16, 2023, to Feb. 15, 2024.

For rice, DA 6 recorded a total of 985.12 hectares that were totally damaged, and 12,902.36 were partially damaged, affecting a total of 18,956 rice farmers.

As for corn, the DA recorded a total of 128.04 hectares that were totally damaged, and a total of 1,139.84 hectares were partially damaged, affecting a total of 1,325 corn farmers in the region.

While for high-value crops, a total of 159.30 hectares were totally damaged and 102.55 hectares were partially damaged, affecting a total of 205 high-value crop farmers in Western Visayas.

For totally damaged crops, the province of Aklan has recorded a total of 25.05 hectares of rice crops totally damaged; Antique recorded a total of 3,987 hectares of rice crops, 472 hectares of corn, and 129 hectares of high-value crops; Iloilo province has recorded a total of 792.45 hectares of rice crops, 41.25 hectares of corn, 7.95 hectares of high-value crops, and a total of 106.07 hectares of affected rice crops recorded in the province of Negros Occidental.

For partially damaged crops, about 1,358.85 hectares of rice crops are listed in the province of Aklan; 2,167.53 hectares of rice crops as well as 269.82 hectares of corn and 97.6 hectares of high-value crops in Antique; 48.25 hectares of corn crops from Capiz province; 7,790 hectares of rice crops as well as 821.97 hectares of corn and 4.95 hectares of high-value crops in the province of Iloilo; and 1,576.32 hectares of rice crops in Negros Occidental.

Eledia said that every time El Niño hits the region, the province of Iloilo remains at the top  of the list to be affected since it has the biggest rice-planted area.

“We encourage our LGUs to submit a master list of affected farmers for validation as the DA prepares its commitment to assist these farmers.  Priority for this assistance are farmers who are affected by the dry spell to enable them to recover from the losses,” Eledia added.

The DA, according to Eledia, is now consolidating the master list of affected farmers and coordinating with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and other agencies to provide immediate assistance and relief to help the affected farmers.AAL/PIA6/EJB