Monday, March 8, 2010

Food security warnings in the Philippines over El Niño

IRIN: Warnings have been raised over food security in the Philippines as the El Niño phenomenon wreaks havoc across vast agricultural areas, leaving staple crops such as rice dying in parched earth, officials say. The cost of crop damage has topped US$239 million since the phenomenon started a heat wave across much of northern Luzon Island and parts of the central Visayas region in late December, said the Department of Agriculture in a recent report by its special task force on El Niño.

Some 14 provinces have been affected, with the brunt of the crisis borne by the agricultural provinces of Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Cagayan and Isabela, where irrigation has dried up. The El Niño drought is compounding problems for an already bleak agricultural sector recovering from devastation wrought last year by two powerful storms, Ketsana and Parma, that pummelled Luzon, officials say.

To stave off a potential shortfall in rice supply, the agriculture department has said it may import some three million metric tonnes of rice this year. Gary Olivar, spokesman for Philippines President Gloria Arroyo, confirmed that the government had entered into import contracts for rice as a "short-term alternative".

"There are no long-term food shortage effects from a short-term phenomenon like El Niño, but we are preparing for its more frequent recurrence due to global warming by expanding our water supply sources, exploring dry weather cultivation methods, as well as similar other policies," Olivar told IRIN….

Satellite view of the Philippines

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