GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- The city government is pushing for the conduct of cloud seeding operations to ease the effects of the prevailing dry spell, which has affected around 120 hectares of corn farmlands.
Elsie Villanueva, assistant head of the City Agriculture Office, said Wednesday they are currently coordinating with the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Region 12 (Soccsksargen) for the inclusion of the area in the planned region-wide cloud seeding activities.
DA-12 has allocated an initial PHP2.5 million for at least 40 cloud seeding sorties in parts of Soccsksargen suffering from the dry spell, which is spawned by the El Niño phenomenon.
Cloud seeding is the process of manually spreading either dry ice or salt into the upper part of the clouds to help stimulate the precipitation process and form rain.
Citing their monitoring, Villanueva said over 300 hectares of farmlands in the city have standing corn crops in at least eight barangays.
She said at least 120 hectares of these were already wilting and incurred damages due to lack of rains and irrigation, affecting at least 36 farmers.
"These were planted from late December to February amid advisories of a looming El Niño," she told reporters.
Villanueva said a number of farmers did not heed their warnings and still proceeded to plant even as these months are considered as off season for corn.
For palay, she said there are also standing crops in several barangays but these were irrigated and expected to survive until harvest.
The official said they are currently providing free vegetable seeds to the affected farmers as initial intervention.
She said the local government could release additional assistance in case the situation worsens and if the city is placed under a state of calamity.
Citing the guidelines, she said the city may declare a state of calamity if the damage to crops will reach 30 percent of the total agriculture area, which was around 13,000 hectares as of 2018.
Villanueva assured that the city government will assist the affected farmers through the provision of corn and palay seeds.
She said these will be released at the start of the next planting season, which is expected to be delayed until June due to the El Niño.(PNA)