By Anna Leah Gonzales
MANILA – Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said El Niño will not likely have a significant impact on local food production, especially for rice and corn.
In a press briefing late Friday, Diokno said that during the Economic Development Group (EDG) meeting last week, it was discussed that while the transition to El Niño is expected in the next months and might persist up to the first quarter of 2024, most models show that this will be weak to moderate.
“We have plotted which areas will be affected by El Niño and it looks like this will not have severe effects on rice production,” Diokno said.
“A weak to moderate El Niño is projected until the first quarter of 2024. Because of this, we do not expect a significant reduction in local production – especially for rice and corn. As a result, we do not foresee a surge in food prices,” he added.
Citing initial estimates, Diokno said that local rice production this year may decline by around 1.8 percent.
Yellow corn production will be lower than 1 percent while a minimal reduction in white corn production will be seen.
“Production of onion and garlic are expected to remain unchanged since they are typically grown in the first half of the year,” Diokno said.
He said there is also a negligible impact on pork and chicken production.
“For the fisheries sector, El Niño is beneficial for the capture fisheries but disadvantageous for the aquaculture,” Diokno said.
Despite these, Diokno said the National Economic and Development Authority proposed the creation of the El Niño Team, to lead the government’s response.
So far, preparatory activities are being undertaken which include retooling and strengthening the Disaster Task Force, weekly monitoring and updating of local field conditions, adjusting the planting calendar during the wet season to avoid typhoons and promoting early planting for the dry season in water deficit areas.
Diokno said other measures include the conduct of regional coordination meetings, trainings, assessment, consultation, reporting, provision of irrigation network services, and buffer stocking of agricultural inputs and prepositioning of pumps and engines.
He also cited the need to maximize and optimize production in nonthreatened areas through the provision of seeds and planting materials, fertilizers, flower inducers, pesticides or herbicides, prioritize the 12 million hectares of well-irrigated rice areas, promote crop diversification, intercropping, crop after rice, livestock integration and provide forage and pasture planting materials.
For vulnerable areas, strategies to save production include appropriate water management and other related interventions such as conduct of cloud seeding operations, shifting to high-value crops with less water requirement, provision of pumps and engine sets, and provision of short gestation or drought tolerant seed varieties, planting materials, fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.
Forecasters are anticipating a strong El Niño event as ocean temperatures have hit record highs this year.
It could cost the global economy trillions of dollars with lingering effects over the years. (PNA)