The Department of Agriculture (DA) Western Visayas informed local farmers as early as the third quarter of 2018 that a weak El Niño will occur from March until June  2019.

Ongoing damage assessments and farm validations, particularly in rice areas, are being conducted nationwide.

To date, a total of 19 LGUs, 15 from Iloilo and four from Capiz, have submitted reports to the DA on drought-related damage on crops.

Rene B. Famoso, the DA field operations division chief, urges agricultural extension workers and LGUs to immediately report agricultural losses to the DA for field validation and assessment. In the meantime, of the 322,000 hectares of rice areas in Western Visayas, only about 38 to 40 percent is irrigated.

Famoso said most of the areas in the region are rainfed and required an improve irrigation system in order to compete with the rice production of Region 2 and 3.

Region 6 had 2.2 million metric tons of rice production in the previous year, which ranked it third after to Central Luzon and Cagayan Valley in terms of production.

The DA also distributed 82 units of pumps and engines to selected farmers’ associations who produce rice and corn. Farmers listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture are protected by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation.

PCIC Marketing and Sales Division Chief Clarence Jereza said that a total of 103,194 farmers and 94, 012.09 hectare-farms dedicated to planting rice, corn, and high-value crops were insured from November 1, 2018 to February 28, 2019.