The provincial government’s agriculture office has recommended the sourcing of rice supplies outside Palawan to ensure the sufficiency of stocks during the pandemic crisis.
In a Wednesday live update of Alerto Palaweño sa COVID-19 of the Provincial Information Office (PIO), provincial agriculturist Ariston Arzaga said that a shortfall in grain supply is expected around July and September due to the drought.
“Malamang magkaroon tayo ng shortfall mga bandang July, September kaya nag-recommend din tayo sa ating mahal na gobyerno na puwede tayo mag-source out as much as na-accelerate. Nag-recommend tayo na mag-source out ng supply ng bigas from outside Palawan para lang masiguro na walang magugutom, iyon nga ang sabi ng gobernador natin na walang magugutom na Palaweño,” he said.
He said that due to the drought, the local agriculture office only expects to harvest half of 7,300 hectares.
Arzaga said that as of the moment, the province still has rice supplies in addition to the stocks arriving. However, they are not enough assurance that there will be enough to cover all needs.
“So far, as of the moment, meron naman plus may mga dumarating din from outside. Iyong ating traders ay may mga parating din sila na angkat outside Palawan,” Arzaga said.
“Nag-i-inventory tayo ng stocks kaya lang di yan pwede panghawakan kasi lahat ng local government pati barangay pati tayo sa provincial, sini-secure natin na-accelerate ang supply ng bigas. Ngayon nandito ang ating mga board member, nag-recommend tayo na temporarily, during the crisis ay i-suspend muna yong shipping out ng palay outside the province,” he added.
Arzaga said that when the quarantine was imposed, the farmers had already completed their rice planting and were just waiting to harvest.
However, this month, they are in the stage of preparing their farms for planting.
“Sa kasalukuyan, halos nasa preparation pa lang ang lahat sa rice farming, nagkataon na ang ECQ natin ay napunta don sa tapos na ang pagtatanim kumbaga naghihintay na lang yong iba ng ani. So, ngayon ay papunta na tayo sa land preparation, may mga area sa lalawigan na nakapagtanim na like sa Narra dahil may irrigation sila at Rizal so nakapag-start na sila ng tanim,” he said.
He assured Palaweños that the provincial government and the Department of Agriculture (DA) are coordinating on a rice resiliency project, which aims to boost the country’s rice sufficiency.
He said that Governor Jose Chaves Alvarez is one of those who committed to support the local farm mechanization and subsidy to rice farmers.
Currently, the provincial agriculture office is conducting technical briefing activities in northern and southern towns to assure that the implementation of the project will reach up to the very last farmer, he said.
“Iyong pinapairal natin ngayon ay rice resiliency project, iyong rice resiliency project, sa Palawan kung dati ay 38,000 lang ang ina-assess na rice farming, sa kasalukuyan ay nasa 58,000 hectares. Iyon ay libre ang seeds, may part na hybrid, kung napunta sayo ay hybrid, may subsidy na tatlong fertilizers, tutumbasan din ng farmers ng tatlong fertilizer. Kapag inbreed ay may support na 2 fertilizer ang gobyerno, tutumbasan din ng farmer ng dalawa,” he said.
“Kung magawa natin ito ngayong wet season, buong lalawigan kasama ang City of Puerto Princesa ay makaka-generate tayo ng 289 days na food sufficient tayo, tuloy-tuloy na yan hanggang second cropping, huwag lang mag-drought, magbaha, calamity. Iyon ang hinaharap ng ating rice farming base sa support ng national, provincial government at municipal government,” Arzaga added.
Meanwhile, Arzaga said that the fisheries sector has slowed down due to the ECQ that holds fishermen to go out to the sea by schedule.
However, the inclusion of locally produced agricultural products in relief goods given to Palaweños benefit the farmers and fisherfolk that signifies that the agriculture sector is still alive during the community quarantine.
“Nakakatulong pa nga sa ating fisherfolk at farmers kasi meron tayong usapan dito sa pangunguna ng ating gobernador na instead na puro noodles at sardinas, isama niyo na ang mga local produced, maraming local government na ganoon ang ginawa. Kumbaga buhay naman ang ating agriculture sector nitong nakaraan,” he said.
Currently, the province has an oversupply of agricultural products due to the absence of expected traffic of tourists, particularly in northern towns.
He said that in 2019, about 1.5 million tourists arrived in the province and competed for food. But now that there are no visitors, the locals have no competition in buying local products.
“Sa ngayon ay over supply tayo, wala na, yong mga nag-produce lalong-lalo na sa norte dahil ang daming hotels at turista na ini-expect natin. Last year, we have more than 1.5 million tourists, wala yan — so yong ini-expect nila na consumption. Ngayon ay tinutulungan natin kung paano ma-market sa city,” he said.
Amid the threat of COVID-19, he said that the seaweed industry is still continuous.
He said that in the region, the province is the top producer of seaweed and Palawan shares 25 percent in the national production.
“Tuloy-tuloy kasi di naman pupuwede i-hold ‘yan o i-standby ‘yan. Tuloy-tuloy ang industry, wala naman kaming problema na na-monitor sa seaweed,” he said.