Crop Damage from El Niño to Reach P5.2B, Says Peasant Group; Farmers Demand Relief and Rehabilitation

March 2, 2010

Manila – The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) estimated that damage to rice crops may reach to about 323,629 metric tons due to extreme drying out and non-irrigation, based on actual rainfed production on the first quarter of last year.  

Damage to crops

The group said that if damage to crops reach 100%, this would result to about 323,629 metric tons which were valued at P5.198-billion, that were rainfed on the first quarter of last year 2009, cultivated from 116,147 hectares from provinces highly vulnerable as accounted by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS).  The damage nationwide may also reach to 8.21% of the first quarter and 1.83% of the annual rice production.  This would also result to 210,359 metric tons of milled rice which is about 1.35% of the total rice utilized in 2008 and 1.91% of the production of the same year.

The Cagayan and Isabela provinces which are hardest-hit by extreme drought compose about 26% of the total damaged or 83,515 metric tons, which was valued at P1.3-billion or 24.93% of the national.

The group also considered the Dept. of Agriculture (DA) report of provinces “highly vulnerable” such as Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Cavite, Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, Capiz , Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Zamboanga City, Sarangani and South Cotabato.  In addition, moderately vulnerable are provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Mt Province, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Romblon, Sorsogon, Aklan, Antique, Bohol, Samar, Zamboanga Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga Sur, Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Davao Sur and Davao City.

“The said volume would be if there would be total damage to El Niño-affected areas.  But based on our own monitoring, some farms are dried up such as in 3rd and 4th district of Leyte where rice farms experience isolated soil cracks due to the dry spell, but farmers are grateful some rain showers occur at night,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General.

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“Also in Iloilo, there are some farmers who face hardships in watering their crops to survive the dry spell.  At present, Cagayan Valley as reported by Danggayan-CV, our regional chapter has been hardest hit by El Niño,” he said.

“We are also stressing that Cagayan Valley farmers, as well as from many regions have yet to cope up with the effects of typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng, thus, the effects of the dry spell have worsened the state of farmers.  We are calling for immediate relief and rehabilitation efforts from the government who has the capacity to implement,” said Ramos.

Immediate demands

KMP is calling for concrete demands such as (1) moratorium on payment of land rent of farms damaged (2) postponement of payment to debts from landlords, traders and Quedancor and cancellation of interests to those with damaged crops (3) financial compensation of P10,000 – P15,000 per hectare of damaged crops; (3) zero-interest credit line from Land Bank amounting to P10,000 to P15,000 per hectare; (4) moratorium on irrigation fees of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and cancellation of back-accounts or payments of farmers not benefitting from irrigation; (5) acquisition of motorized water-pumps, pipes and tubes, tractors, hand tractors, farm tools and carabaos to legitimate farmers’ organization and fuel subsidy for its operation, (6) seeds of traditional and indigenous varities of rice and corn, not hybrid and GMO; (7) relief package majorly composed of 1 sack of rice per farming househoulds, accompanied with grocery goods; (8) investigation and review on the management and operations of dams nationwide; (9) housing assistance especially to those ravaged by typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng.

“These are our immediate demands at present, and we know that the government is capable of giving them to the farmers.  Instead of giving them through local government units, we demand that they be given to legitimate farmers organizations to prevent corruption,” said Ramos.

“On the long-term, we are not gripping away from our call for genuine land reform, particularly free land distribution, end to liberalization of agriculture and nationalization of dams,” he added.

End liberalization, privatization

KMP has been opposing liberalization of agriculture prior the country’s entry to the World Trade Organization in 1995.  The group said, the inclusion of agriculture in the WTO has shattered the country’s capacity to produce its own supply of rice, by flooding the local market by imported rice.

“We oppose the gov’t plans to import more rice by using El Niño as excuse.  Damage may hit a maximum of 300,000 metric tons but it is even smaller than our annual end stock at 2.6 million metric tons on 2008,” said Ramos.

“Thus, there is no basis for increase imports, worse they would simply depress farmgate prices and compete with locally-produced rice, causing bankruptcy and indebtedness to farmers,” he added.

KMP said that a major factor in agriculture is non-irrigation where NIA reports that it has irrigated 46% or 1.4 million has. of the 3.1 million has.

“We could not even verify if the NIA reports are true as the highest irrigated rice lands was reported at 1 million has. every 4th quarter of the year,” said Ramos.

The group is also questioning the operation of Magat dam, now owned by SN Aboitiz, which was privatized in 2006 through the Electric Power Industry Reforms Act of 2001 (EPIRA). Magat dam was built in 1983 and funded by the World Bank (WB), United Nation’s Int’l Fund for Agriculural Dev’t (IFAD) and Asian Dev’t Bank (ADB), to irrigate 97,402 has. of the Cagayan river basin and to produce 360 megawatts of electricity through its hydro-electric power plant.  Prior to its privatization in 2006, it served as an ample source of irrigation to Cagayan Valley which made it the third (to Central Luzon and Western Visayas) rice granary of the country producing about 2 million metric tons or 12.37% of the country’s production.  However, Isabela came second to Nueva Ecija among provinces, producing 1 million metric tons or 6.33% of the country’s total of 2008.

“It is very disturbing that the privatization of Magat dam has destroyed Isabela and Cagayan Valley’s  reputation of being a rice granary.  Nueva Ecija which produces about 1.37 million metric tons probably sustained its crops as Pantabangan dam is serving as irrigation for the farms at its area.  This should be investigated as concretely the programs and policies of the Arroyo government have impaired our food production and wreaked havoc to the livelihoods of farmers,” said Ramos.

KMP said that Arroyo’s policies of liberalization and privatization are double whammy to farmers and agriculture.  Liberalization depresses farmgate prices during plentiful harvest as the gov’t have promoted massive importation such as rice and corn.  In addition, during drought, privatization has given TNCs to monopolize water resulting destruction to crops. 

“These are major trends that should be reviewed and investigated to prevent further damage to agriculture and farmers’ livelihood,” said Ramos.

Roy Morilla, Public Information Officer, KMP

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