Up to 257,000 hectares of rice fields, with an estimated output of about 1.46 million metric tons of rice, are at risk of being compromised by the impending El Niño.
There are approximately 3.1 million hectares of potential irrigable areas in the country, of which around 68 percent, or 2.1 million hectares, have already been irrigated. I Photo: Department of Agriculture Philippines
This information was disclosed by Josephine Salazar, the Officer-in-Charge Deputy Administrator for the Engineering and Operations Sector of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), during the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City.
The Philippine Atmosphhardest hiteric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) previously announced that it expects the intensity of El Niño to escalate starting this November.
It anticipates the most severe effects of the weather phenomenon from January to March 2024, with a high probability of below-normal rainfall conditions in most parts of the country.
Data from NIA showed that, among the agricultural regions in the country, Central Luzon is expected to bear the brunt of the dry spell, with around 85,000 hectares of rice land vulnerable to drought.
Soccsksargen is projected to be the second hardest hit with 27,000 hectares of rice fields, followed by Ilocos with 24,000 hectares.
Other regions heavily threatened by the dry spell include Mimaropa (17,000 hectares), Western Visayas (15,000 hectares), Central Visayas (14,000 hectares), and Zamboanga (13,000 hectares).
Salazar stated, "We are proposing that they plant high-value crops at the tail-end portion of the irrigation system."
She mentioned that among the crops listed as priorities of the Department of Agriculture's High-Value Crops Development program are mangoes, bananas, coffee, cacao, and onions.
NIA is already coordinating with the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the prepositioning of seeds for these high-value crops.
NIA is requesting Congress for P41 billion under the 2024 national budget to increase the area of irrigated lands in the country. Salazar mentioned that there are approximately 3.1 million hectares of potential irrigable areas in the country, of which around 68 percent, or 2.1 million hectares, have already been irrigated. She emphasized, "We are requesting this to ensure food security."