COTABATO CITY -– The dry spell has already destroyed more than PHP140 million worth of agricultural crops in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), agriculture officials Monday said.
Alexander Alonto, regional secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF-ARMM), said the amount of damages may increase as not all provincial agriculture officers have submitted all the reports to his office here.
Aside from drought and lack of water for rice fields, farmers in the region are also facing another menace – rat infestation.
Alonto said crop damages due to the long dry spell rose to PHP124 million while damages brought about by rat attacks have reached PHP16 million in Maguindanao alone.
Alonto said crop damage report from Lanao del Sur is yet to reach his office because assessment and evaluation are still going on.
Citing data from agriculture officials, Alonto said Maguindanao suffered the most because of dry spell since “most of its agricultural products are already on its vegetative stage.”
Drought and rat infestation destroyed about PHP94 million in Maguindanao alone, affecting 21,000 farmers in 15 municipalities hardest hit by dry spell he said.
Alonto said 11 municipalities out of Maguindanao’s 36 towns have been affected by rodents infestation with 12,000 affected farmers.
Alonto identified eight towns affected by both dry spell and rat attacks as Buldon, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Datu Unsay, Guindulungan, Northern Kabuntalan, Mamasapano, South Upi at Sultan Mastura.
Basilan provincial agriculture office reported its estimated production loss to PHP19 million. Sulu, on the other hand, reported PHP3.6 million worth of agricultural crops were lost to drought and in Tawi-Tawi, the estimated crop damages was PHP7 million.
In adjacent town of Pigcawayan in North Cotabato, Muslim farmers were helpless in rat attacks and would rather wait for assistance from the government.
”Our ready to harvest palay have been destroyed by rats and we cannot do anything about it because of our belief,” farmer Aliuden Ibrahim.
Farmers in Kabacan, North Cotabato have resorted to killing rodents to cushion the effect of infestation and to receive rice in exchange for rat tails submitted to Kabacan local government unit.
For every 500 rat tails submitted to the mayor’s office, a farmer gets 50 kilos of rice or equivalent to one sack.
But farmers in Pigcawayan said they do not resort to killing rats.
”Our belief is the more you kill rats the more it will get back at you, your clothes, your valuables or your work animals, so we do not kill them,” Ibrahim said. PNA/www.northboundasia.com