El Niño's Impact on Philippine Agriculture: Stagnant Output Expected in Q2 2024

El Niño has caused P6.3 billion in damage to the Philippine agricultural sector, affecting 3.6 million Filipinos and prompting calls for government support. The drought has severely impacted rice production, corn crops, and high-value commercial crops, with farmers and fisherfolk struggling to cope.

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Nitish Verma
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El Niño's Impact on Philippine Agriculture: Stagnant Output Expected in Q2 2024

El Niño's Impact on Philippine Agriculture: Stagnant Output Expected in Q2 2024

The Philippines is grappling with the devastating effects of El Niño on its agricultural sector, with economists predicting that output in the second quarter of 2024 may remain stagnant due to damage to local plantations. The prolonged drought has affected approximately 3.6 million Filipinos, including children, and caused economic losses reaching P6 billion.

Why this matters: The impact of El Niño on Philippine agriculture has far-reaching consequences for the country's food security and economy, affecting not only farmers and their families but also the overall population. If left unaddressed, the stagnant agricultural output could lead to food shortages, price increases, and further economic instability.

According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), El Niño has caused P6.3 billion in damage to the agricultural sector, with rice fields accounting for P3.3 billion, corn crops at P1.9 billion, and high-value commercial crops at P1 billion. The regions most affected are MIMAROPA with P1.7 billion in reported damage, Western Visayas with P1.5 billion, and the Cordillera Administrative Region with almost P800 million.

DA spokesperson Arnel de Mesa stated, "We released the latest bulletin on El Niño yesterday. The latest damage now is P6.3 billion, still highest is the rice sector at P3.3 billion. Our corn crops are at P1.9 billion, and our high-value commercial crops are at P1 billion." Despite the damage, de Mesa noted that the government's El Niño mitigation programs have been effective in reducing the impact on farmers and fishers, with only 60,000 hectares of farmland affected, lower than the projected 120,000 hectares.

The impact on farming families has been severe, with many struggling to support their children's health, survival, and education due to the scorching heat. Teresita Abides, a 46-year-old mother, lost her entire rice crop, forcing her children to stop schooling to help their father cope with the difficulties on the farm. "Families reliant on farming are facing mounting challenges due to the scorching heat, affecting their ability to support their children's health, survival, and education," said Faisah Ali, humanitarian manager of Save the Children Philippines.

Save the Children Philippines, through its Generation Hope Campaign, has provided P6,000 cash assistance to each farming household in Western Samar, as well as livelihood assistance and trainings on animal husbandry, vegetable cultivation, and crop production. The organization has also distributed five drought-resistant seeds to each household for cultivation in their backyard gardens, ensuring a sustainable food supply capable of enduring dry seasons.

The sugarcane industry has also been severely affected by El Niño, with the United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) warning that many sugarcane farms in Negros will not be able to recover, impacting local sugar production. To prevent a shortage in supply, UNIFED is calling for the importation of 200,000 metric tons of sugar. UNIFED president Manuel Lamata emphasized, "We need to import to bridge the gap. The (volume of) 185,000 metric tons to 200,000 metric tons is just enough. It should not be more than that so that once the milling season starts, we can protect the mill gate prices of the farmers."

Farmers and other sectors have protested the government's response to the drought, demanding immediate and comprehensive short-term and long-term relief and rehabilitation. Ka Cathy Estavillo, general secretary of the Amihan farmers' women's group and spokesperson of Bantay Bigas, criticized the government's offerings of loans, insurance, and meager financial assistance, insisting on more substantial support.

The El Niño phenomenon has caused significant damage to the Philippine agricultural sector, with rice production being the most affected. The reduction in rice production, along with the impact on other crops and the sugarcane industry, is expected to result in a stagnant agricultural output in the second quarter of 2024. As the country grapples with the effects of the drought, farmers, fisherfolk, and rural communities continue to call for comprehensive government support and relief measures to help them cope with the challenges posed by El Niño.

Key Takeaways

  • El Niño damages Philippine agriculture by P6.3 billion, affecting 3.6 million Filipinos.
  • Rice fields account for P3.3 billion in damages, corn crops at P1.9 billion, and high-value crops at P1 billion.
  • 60,000 hectares of farmland affected, lower than projected 120,000 hectares due to government mitigation efforts.
  • Farming families struggle to support children's health, survival, and education due to drought.
  • Sugarcane industry severely affected, with calls for 200,000 metric tons of sugar importation to prevent shortage.