KABACAN, North Cotabato — Beside the feared El Nino phenomenon that expected to hit hard during the first three months of the year, rice farmers in North Cotabato’s rice granary are facing anew its worst enemies – rats.

Disaster officials here reported that palay farmers in at least nine villages have declared “failure” of this quarter’s cropping season as thousands of rats have feasted on palay already in its vegetative stage while they were all asleep.

”Failure” is a jargon used by farmers when rice farming resulted in deficit as compared to the amount of input used per hectare.

David Don Saure, Kabacan Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC) chair, said as of Monday, the rat infestation has destroyed close to PHP13 million worth of palay and corn crops in nine barangays.

Saure said the rodents attacked about 100 hectares of rice fields in the villages of Bangalan, Cuyapon, Dagupan, Lower Paatan, Katidtuan, Malamote, Upper Paatan, Simone and Pedtad, affecting more than 1,000 rice and corn farmers.

Saure said the massive infestation could be attributed to climate change and the onset of El Nino phenomenon.

Rats normally go astray into rice and corn fields because of warm temperature due to dry spell. It preys on ready to harvest crops in the middle of the night when farmers are asleep and the surroundings were silent.

Saure said the municipal government is mulling of extending rodenticides to farmers to contain the infestation in adjacent villages and save rice production.

Kabacan is the primary producer of agricultural crops that include corn, rice, soybeans, peanut, mongo, cassava and other field crops.

More known as the “Rice Granary of the Province of North Cotabato,” Kabacan farmers devoted most of its fertile domain to rice production with corn as secondary crop.

Last year, the Department of Agriculture in Region 12 had called for community and local government unit partnership to combat rat attacks.

DA-12 Regional Technical Director for Research and Regulations Enriqueto G. Natividad said the government had gone beyond mere pest management and control.

He told a news conference of a proactive approach that will involve local governments and farmers themselves in eradicating rodent attacks.

A comprehensive research is going on to understand rats in the rice fields and how to contain them in the face of climate change affecting most of the region.

Last year, DA-12 distributed more than 400 kilograms of Zinc phosphide rodenticide throughout the region which is composed of the provinces of North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani and the cities of Cotabato, Kidapawan, Koronadal, Tacurong and Gen. Santos. PNA /