Farmers in La Union are shifting to drought-resistant crops to parry off the dire effects of the El Niño phenomenon in the agriculture sector. Rice farmer Carlito Eslava of San Gabriel, La Union is now planting corn and mung beans as an alternative to rice to cushion the possible effects of El Nino. “Mag-harvest na kami ng palay sa huling linggo ng
Abril pero nagtanim pa rin kami ng mais at munggo ngayon na pwede na naming anihin, hindi kasi ito mabigat sa patubig,” Eslava said.

This as the La Union Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG) earlier advised the local farmers to look into alternative crops
that do not require much water and can thrive under the extreme heat of the sun to avoid agricultural loss. OPAG Officer-In-Charge Sharon G. Viloria encouraged farmers to cultivate short gestating crops such as vegetable crops which are planted and harvested in a short period of time. “Ang mas inirerekomenda namin na itanim ng mga
magsasaka natin ay yung mga drought-resistant commodities at mga crops na hindi matagal iproduce para hindi masyadong intensive sa tubig,” Viloria highlighted.

While, the La Union provincial government is bolstering its initiatives to help farmers mitigate the impact of El Nino on their livelihood. Viloria said that registered local farmers and fisherfolks affected by El Nino can avail the emergency trust fund prepared by PGLU upon the result of the validation conducted by OPAG. The emergency trust fund was created through the Provincial Ordinance No. 425- 2023 that aims to help farmers cope up with their loss due to the occurrence of natural hazards or disaster such as El Nino. Aside from the insurance, OPAG has already procured vegetable seeds and farming tools to be distributed this April as an additional assistance to farmers.

La Union Governor Raphaelle Veronica OrtegaDavid ensured farmers and fisherfolk that PGLU is always ready to provide support to them. “Nakita na po naming unang maaapektuhan ng El Nino ang ating mga magsasaka at pati na rin yung mga nag-aalaga ng isda kaya naman naglaan po tayo ng pondo para sa kanilang insurance at pati na rin ‘yong mga farm equipments at mga vegetable seeds na hindi nangangailangan ng maraming tubig na makakatulong sa kanila ngayong nakakaranas tayo ng ganitong panahon.”

While the Office of the Provincial Veterinarian (OPVet) had also reminded livestock owners and poultry raisers to
observe and take extra care for their pets and farm animals against hot weather conditions to avoid heat stroke. The OPVet is currently conducting the “Purga Ka PROBINSYAnihan ” providing free deworming and free vitamins and supplements to small and large ruminants to maintain their health during the dry spell. As the province continues to attain its vision to be the “Heart of Agri-Tourism in Northern Luzon” by 2025, the La Union provincial government vow to continue promoting the welfare and protecting the livelihood of farmers and fisherfolks that contributes to the sustainability of the agriculture sector and economic development of the province.

Meanwhile, the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) said it has initially received a report from our branch offices
in Region 1 that some of tobacco farmers were affected by the El Niño phenomenon. “Although we have our campaign on early planting of tobacco, some of our farmers were not spared from the effect of El Niño, especially those tobacco planted in the upland areas,” admitted NTA Public Information Officer V Freddie Lazaro. But, as to the level of damages, “we are currently conducting an initial assessment and validation of this report.” But Lazaro assured that despite the presence of the El Niño phenomenon, “we still have good-quality tobacco production this season.”

Artemio A. Dumlao/ABN

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