The Misleading War on GMOs: The Food Is Safe. The Rhetoric Is Dangerous.

CABANATUAN CITY-As much as 1.5 million cavans of palay were lost when Typhoons “Karen” and “Lawin” struck northern and Central Luzon in succession in October. But the unhusked rice supply in Nueva Ecija, as well as in other provinces in Central Luzon, remains stable.

“We have enough supply of rice stocked in our warehouses,” said Amadeo de Guzman, regional director of the National Food Authority in Central Luzon. “The rice harvest in other provinces was not affected much by the typhoons,” he said.

According to him, the region has enough supply of rice until the end of the next cropping season.

Nueva Ecija plants a total of 100,000 hectares of inbred and hybrid seed varieties during the dry season cropping which starts in December.

Inbred rice yields from 120 to 150 cavans a hectare while hybrid rice harvests more than 200 cavans a hectare.

“When Karen cut through Central Luzon, 110,000 hectares of the standing crop were on the ripening stage,” said Serafin Santos of the Nueva Ecija agricultural office.

More damage

The condition of the plants improved after the farmers drained their fields, Santos said, but Lawin aggravated this.

“If the losses suffered were 14 cavans per hectare or about 1.5 million cavans after the onslaught of Karen, Lawin added more,” he said.

He said losses in rice crops in Nueva Ecija totaled P1.5 billion.

Before Karen and Lawin blew through the province, 75,000 hectares of the crop were harvested, he said. The average yield then was 96 cavans a hectare which, he said, was higher than the usual average of 85 to 90 cavans a hectare during the rainy season.

Lower prices for palay

Many farmers harvested only about 70 cavans a hectare in the aftermath of the two typhoons, the provincial agricultural office gathered.

Santos said the farmers’ palay was bought by traders at P16 to P17 per kilogram before the typhoons came. But after the typhoons, the farm gate price was down to P11, or even P10, a kilogram.

That was because the grains’ husk appeared darker because of days these were soaked in mud, he said.

In Baguio City on Friday, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) intends to complete the distribution of partial emergency shelter assistance to Lawin victims before Christmas.

Taguiwalo, who was in Baguio for her agency’s national management development conference, said the DSWD can give the partial P5,000 for every beneficiary.

Families with partially damaged houses are entitled to P10,000 while those who lost houses would get P35,000. But the agency budget makes available only a P5,000 outlay for the meantime, Taguiwalo said.

She said social workers have distributed food packs and personal hygiene kits to the victims. -ANSELMO ROQUE AND KIMBERLIE QUITASOL

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