Veggie output drops in scorched farmlands

By: Victor Anthony V. Silva April 22,2016 - 10:39 PM
A farmer from Mantalongon, Dalaguete shows a stunted carrot. Vegetable production in Mantalongon has declined because of the intense heat due to the El Niño phenomenon. (CDN PHOTO/FERDINAND EDRALIN)

A farmer from Mantalongon, Dalaguete shows a stunted carrot. Vegetable production in Mantalongon has declined because of the intense heat due to the El Niño phenomenon. (CDN PHOTO/FERDINAND EDRALIN)

Farmlands in Mantalongon, Dalaguete in southern Cebu, parched due to lack of rain since the start of the year, have started to crack.

Some crops have withered, while the growth of others has been stunted.

“Sa 30 ka tuig nakong panguma, mao ni pinakainit nga panahon nga akong nasinati (In my 30 years of farming, this is the hottest weather I have ever experienced),” 60-year-old farmer Celio Amamangpang told Cebu Daily News.

Mantalongon, situated 920 meters above sea level and 13 kilometers from the center of Dalaguete, is known as the “Vegetable Basket of Cebu.”

Amamangpang, who owns a one-hectare field for cabbage and two hectares for chayote, said he harvested 10 bags of chayote a week from August to October last year. Since April, however, harvest has gone down to only four bags.

“I stopped planting lettuce because it easily dies in this weather. My supply of water is only enough for chayote and cabbage,” he said.

He brings his produce to the Dalaguete Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (APTC) in Mantalongon.

Valeriano Cariquitan, operations head of the APTC, said the trading center has seen a more than 50 percent drop in production volume across all commodities.

From an average regular production of 33 to 40 tons a day during the last quarter of 2015, it has now dropped to 15 to 18 tons. The APTC, he added, isn’t as packed with people as when supply was still high.

This has also led to a dramatic increase in prices for all commodities such as cabbage, the most common crop in the market, he added. The price of cabbage rose from P5.50 per kilo in the middle of January this year to P60 per kilo by the end of February.

Prices of other commodities also increased: beans, from P22 to P48 per kilo; onions from P45 to P80 per kilo; carrots from P45 to P60 per kilo; and lettuce from P28 to P51.

Cariquitan said it is a blessing that the soil in Mantalongon can hold water for long periods of time, even during dry spells like what the province is experiencing at present.

“There are only 16 vegetable-producing barangays in the town out of 34. Other villages stand on rocky soil and therefore cannot hold water quite as long as in this area,” he told CDN in a separate interview.

Aside from Mantalongon in Dalaguete, other mountain barangays in Argao, Alcoy and Oslob towns in southern Cebu also deliver vegetables to Cebu City.

Dalaguete and parts of Cebu experienced moderate rains earlier this week, but the shower was not enough to “heal” the cracked farmlands.

The provincial government declared a state of calamity after P158-million worth of crops were reported damaged due to the heat. It has distributed over P27 million in assistance to affected areas since last year.

The Provincial Agricultural Office said it also distributed P4-million worth of vegetable seeds, grafted mango, cacao, banana suckers and sweet potato cuttings.

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TAGS: agriculture, Cebu, crops, dry, El Niño, farm, farmers, heat, vegetarian, water

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