In a bid to assess its impact on the crop, the International Rice Research Institute and the Philippine Department of Agriculture are working together to find out the extent of the damage wrought by the typhoon, known locally as Yolanda, on rice production in the worst-affected regions.
"The current rice crop in the affected regions accounts for less than 10% of the Philippines’ annual national rice production, and most of the rice crop in these regions had already been harvested before the typhoon came," said Samarendu Mohanty, IRRI economist and head of the Institute’s social science and policy arm.
Mohanty, however, added that it will take a little more time to determine the full extent of the damage.
Leyte, the province that bore the full brunt of the typhoon, is a Category II rice–producing province, meaning it has more than 100,000 hectares of rice land. Between 2000 and 2009, Leyte posted the third biggest increase in rice production among all provinces, behind Nueva Ecija and Iloilo, and has the highest average annual growth rate in terms of yield per hectare output.
Coming from an assessment meeting with the Department of Agriculture today, IRRI deputy director general for communication and partnership V. Bruce J. Tolentino said the typhoon struck in the period between planting seasons in Leyte.
Most farms had already completed their wet season harvest and were just starting to prepare for the dry season crop.
“The most serious issues will arise from extensive losses resulting from the storm surge—in farm machinery, storage, housing, and damage to roads and irrigation. These will need replacement and rehabilitation,” said Tolentino.
“In the meantime, access to markets is constrained and household food stocks are down to zero, causing a spike in local food prices.”
As climate change continues to add to challenges for rice production, Filipino farmers have responded by planting climate change-ready rice varieties.
About five million farmers across Asia are now using “scuba” or flood-tolerant rice, which can withstand submergence for up to two weeks. IRRI, which developed the strain, has released 101 improved rice varieties in the Philippines.
As part of its response to help people affected by the typhoon, IRRI and the DA said they would provide seeds of flood-tolerant rice to farmers.