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Bulacan farmers warn of low rice production next year

PLARIDEL, Bulacan, Philippines – Farmers here have warned of low rice production next year due to lack of water allocation for irrigation despite the rising water level at Angat dam.

Records obtained by The STAR yesterday showed that water elevation at the dam climbed to 163.26 meters above sea level (masl), or 5.72 meters above the recorded all time low of 157.54 masl on July 14.

However, yesterday’s water elevation was still 16.74 meters lower than the critical 180 masl or the elevation when the allocation for irrigation was cut off.

The low water level at the dam has forced a delay in planting in some 27,000 hectares of rice lands in Bulacan and southern Pampanga.

“Our palay should already have been full grown at this time of year,” said Liza Sacdalan, president of the Central Luzon Organic Rice Producers Association (CLORPA) based in this town.

She said cropping season usually starts in the third or fourth week of June, but lack of allocation for irrigation had forced thousands of farmers in the province to delay rice planting.

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“We can’t blame the farmers because if they’re not assured of water supply they will not plant,” Sacdalan said in Filipino.

But even with no guaranteed water allocation, some farmers reportedly took the risk and worked on their rice lands earlier this month, she said.

“We are not sure if they can harvest because up to now there’s no allocation from Angat,” Sacdalan said.

She stressed that delays in planting would push the harvest time to December or January.

“If we plant today and harvest in December or January, when are we supposed to plant for the second cropping season?” she asked.

The second cropping season usually begins in November or December. This means that if they plant rice by December or January, there might not be enough water to sustain the crops by the start of the next summer season.

National Food Authority (NFA) officials said that despite the adequate stock of rice procured since 2008, uncertainty over supply remains because of the delays in the planting.

“We have good procurement in the last two years, but we don’t know what will happen next year, because planting has already been delayed,” Serafin Manalili, NFA manager for Bulacan said.

For this year, NFA-Bulacan has already procured at least 220,000 bags of rice.

He said the situation might lead to another excessive rice importation, which President Aquino scored in his first State of the Nation Address last Monday.

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