>News Update Rats destroy P29M ricelands in Mindanao

>KORONADAL CITY — Rat infestation has destroyed about P29 million worth of palay in two provinces in Central Mindanao as agriculture officials move in to control the damage wrought by the rodents.

Central Mindanao is the island’s major rice granary.

Amalia Jayag-Datukan, regional agriculture director, warned Friday that continued rat attacks on palay farms will pose direct threat to the region’s rice sufficiency.

“We have provided farmers with zinc phosphide and regular information campaign on the various procedures on how to eliminate rats and training in pest management were undertaken by our experts in a bid to minimize the effects of the infestation in palay-producing municipalities,” Datukan said.

The rat infestation has wrecked palay farms in the provinces of south and north Cotabato in the last few months.

Hit hardest by the rats in South Cotabato were the towns of Surallah and Tantangan, according to a report from the Provincial Agriculture Office submitted to the Department of Agriculture regional office.

Reynaldo Legaste, chief agriculturist of South Cotabato, said the total damage caused by the rats to palay farms from December 2010 to January 2011 reached P16.9 million.

In Surallah town, Legaste said that 15 barangays were infested, affecting 428 hectares with an estimated volume of 2,970 metric tons with a value of P8.3 million.

In Tantangan municipality, 13 villages suffered from rat attacks that destroyed a volume of 3,125 metric tons worth P8.6 million.

Last October, Lake Sebu town declared a state of calamity after 10 of its 19 barangays were attacked by rats.

Citing a report from the Provincial Agriculture Office in North Cotabato, Datukan said the rat infestation damaged P12 million worth of crops in nine municipalities as of December 2010.

At least 4,881 farmers were affected from severe rat and rice blast infestation, the report of the North Cotabato provincial agriculture office said.

Rice fields attacked by the rodents were placed at 1,357 hectares, it added.

Datukan said that rats destroy the palay by eating its stem, especially those that are almost ready for harvest.

The affected towns in North Cotabato were President Roxas, Alamada, Carmen, Pigcawayan, Aleosan, Libungan, Antipas, Kabacan and Tulunan.

Datukan said the regional Agriculture office has so far distributed 425 kilograms of zinc phosphide as intervention to the local government units that have submitted crop damage reports.

The volume of rodenticides distributed can serve 20,000 hectares, she said.

Last year, the South Cotabato Provincial Government conducted a “rat tail campaign” where a kilo of rice was given to farmers in exchange for every 10 rat tails they collected. Bong Sarmiento

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