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July 2024

Aklan’s rice production plummets as dry weather turns fields to dust

Some 1,500 hectares of rice fields are currently being affected by the worsening El Niño conditions in the Western Visayas province

AKLAN, Philippines – Aklan’s rice production significantly dropped due to dry weather conditions exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon since 2023, impacting thousands of hectares of rice fields in the Western Visayas province.

Engineer Alexys Apolonio, head of Aklan’s provincial agriculture office, said many rice farmers in the province diversified and opted to plant other crops last year following warnings from the Department of Agriculture (DA) about the impending dry spell caused by the El Niño phenomenon.

As a consequence, Aklan recorded the lowest average rice yield in Western Visayas in 2023, with a production of only 2.45 metric tons of rice per hectare, compared to the 3.09 metric tons per hectare produced in 2021. The 2022 report is still being validated, Apolonio said.

“We advised farmers to consider planting vegetables as an alternative to rice due to the uncertainties [surrounding] the El Niño phenomenon,” he said.

The local agriculture office reported that at least 1,500 hectares of rice fields are currently affected by the worsening El Niño conditions, with the western towns of Lezo, Numancia, and Makato being hardest hit due to irrigation difficulties.

Godynel Isedenia, president of the Aklan Provincial Organic Producers Association, told Rappler on Monday, February 26, that while Aklan occasionally experiences rainfall, the amount is insufficient to meet the water requirements of the rice fields.

Isedenia noted that the water level of the Aklan River has dropped, with its flow no longer reaching many farms.

Based on the provincial government data, Aklan has 7,905 hectares of irrigated land and approximately 8,114 hectares of rainfed areas. The province also has 816 hectares of upland rice farms spread across five towns.

The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Aklan said the province’s rice production has significantly decreased because farmers had thought that they would experience the worst effects of the El Niño last year.

Real Kim Tugna, leader of Bayan-Aklan, told a news conference on Saturday, February 24, that Aklan could have produced more rice if farmers had known they would not face the worst effects of the El Niño in 2023.

Tugna said many of Aklan’s rice farmers were discouraged from planting rice and shifted to other crops last year after the agriculture department issued warnings about El Niño as early as May 2023. – QR Code

Published Date: February 28, 2024

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