Cebu News

Damaged by El Niño Farmer gives away tomatoes

Iris Hazel Mascardo - The Freeman
Damaged by El Niño Farmer gives away tomatoes
The prolonged dry spell has already taken a toll on farmers in Cebu City resulting in massive loss of income. Emelio Secretaria, a farmer who owns at least four hectares of farm in Barangay Sudlon 2, Cebu City, was forced to give away his tomatoes for free after it was damaged by the El Niño.

CEBU, Philippines — Free tomatoes were distributed to the public over the weekend, but unbeknownst to many this act of generosity speaks of the ill-effects of the El Niño that has taken a toll on some Cebu City farmers.

Emilio Secretaria, a farmer who owns at least four hectares of farm land in Barangay Sudlon 2, Cebu City, warmed the hearts of the public when he announced that he will be giving out tomatoes for free last Saturday, April 21, 2024.

This was also announced by Cebu City Councilor Pastor “Jun” Alcover, chairman of the Committee on Agriculture of the Cebu City Council, who has been vocal of the farmers’ plight amidst the dry spell.

But in an interview yesterday, Secretaria said this is the effect of the drought, which has hit their crops beginning from the month of March this year.

He admitted that they have observed more than a million in income losses due to the ill-effects of El Niño, which has caused a water crisis. He added that in their P800,000 expenses, their returns is only at P300,000 corresponding to P500,000 loss of investment.

When March came, Secretaria said they did not anticipate the massive heat wave thinking that it was a normal heat brought by the summer season.

“Sa naa pa tuy supply sa tubig, okay pa to. Wa pay problema. Naka production pa ta, duna tay mga na harvest, nag baligya pa ta,” he said.

However, when April came, Secretaria said they already felt the effects of the drought when their own water impounding had rapidly receded.

On the same day yesterday, Secretaria showed the media their own water impounding where four of which are no longer functional or have dried up. The water impounding was the water source to cultivate their crops.

With this, Secretaria said they can no longer harvest some of their crops, specifically tomatoes, since its sizes are not sellable.

“Ni desisyon nalang gyud mi (to give out) kay loss naman gyud ni. Amo nalang hunahuna himuon namo og positive and negative impacts ang kakusog sa init kay wala naman gyud, gidawat na namo nga pilde na,” he said.

“Para mapuslan pas mga tawo nga nanginahanglan, mao to nga among gi-post nga ipanghatag namo libre,” he added.

He further said that he would allow the public to visit the farm and harvest their tomatoes to make them feel what the farmers are dealing with and the challenges of drought.

Secretaria also said that they encourage those who will be receiving their free tomatoes to not sell it and take it only for personal consumption.

Just within the area where they are giving out their tomatoes, Secretaria said it translates to at least P300,000 loss. According to him, they have invested at least P400,000 to cultivate the tomatoes and they've only seen around P100,000 in returns.

Although it is not the first El Niño that they have faced, Secretaria said they have not anticipated its massive impact alongside the rapid receding of their water impounding.

“(Wala ta ka anticipate) nga ing-ani ka paspas,” said Secretaria.

To move forward despite the drought, Secretaria said their game plan includes planting in portions to consider their water supply.

“Unya kana sya dugay kaayo na kay wala ta kahibaw og mahurot nya ang tubig, pildi na sad na, pero isip usa ka farmer, unya naa tay obligasyon sa kalikupan na mu provide og pagkaon, kuan jud ta, pildi or daog, tanom gyud ta kay unsa nalay kaunon sa taga syudad,” said Secretaria.

To mitigate the impacts, Secretaria said they are currently conserving water and using drip irrigation. He also added that they have to reduce their number of workers from 15 to six workers.

As for government assistance, Secretaria said they understand if the government is having a hard time extending assistance provision to them, but hopes they will get aid on things beyond their capability.

“Pero sa ako-a isip mag uuma, ang need nako katong di nako maabot, pananglitan kanang mag provide or pag locate anang mga scanners, asa dapit ang kusog na tubod, wala man tay kahimanan ana isip mag-uuma,” said Secretaria.

Aside from this, he is also asking the city government to help them drill the water source or even allow them to borrow equipment to do such.

Secretaria said that the Department of Agriculture of Region-7 has been extending them a helping hand to sustain their farming for the past years.

On the other hand, he added that for this year, they haven’t received any help yet even from the government.

“Karon nga tuig wala ta ka receive, wala pa say taga government nga ni extend nato og taban, pero nisabot ta ana kay dako dako man ta nga farmer mas gi priority gyud nila katong gamay nga farmer, kay kung dako ko og damage mas dako gyud ilaha,” he said.

City agriculturist urged to resign

Amid damage observed by the farmers with their crops, Alcover has “demanded” Cebu City Agriculture Department (CAD) head Joey Baclyon to resign.

According to him, this is because he does not have any executive power and such responsibility falls under CAD.

“Kay king pananglitan unta, maatiman pa na nga bukid, nakasuroy pa si Joey (Baclayon) dira, before pa ning katalagman, dili unta na maabot ana nga stage,” said Alcover.

Over the statement of Baclayon that there has been insurance offered to the farmers, Alcover said numerous farmers have already approached him asking for the details on the matter.

He added that it is supposed to be Baclayon who will be addressed the concerns of the farmers.

“Siya’y manubag ana, ang problema may di man na sya musuroy dira,” said Alcover.

He added since all 28 barangays were already declared under state of calamity, the provision of aid should not be selected.

According to him, since the crops are already dead, he has urged the city government to instead distribute 25 kilos of rice to the farmers in order to survive.

Alcover further said that he does not want Baclayon to be removed just for him to be replaced. But his intention is for the appointment of another agriculturist that has the “heart to help the farmers”.

“So mo-demand jud ko nga mawala na unta na siya kay aron mag assign si mayor og tawo nga duna gyuy kasingkasing sa kabukiran aron mo-meet anang mga farmers nga nag complain,” he said. — (FREEMAN)

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