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Typhoon destroys rice, corn crops in Philippines

by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Oct 19, 2010
Super Typhoon Megi has destroyed huge tracts of rice and corn crops in the Philippines, officials said Tuesday, warning the Southeast Asian country could be forced to import more of the foodstuffs.

The crops were ready for harvest when Megi, the most powerful typhoon to hit the Philippines in four years, smashed the northern parts of the main island of Luzon on Monday, the officials said.

The Philippines, the world's largest rice importer, may have to buy more from overseas next year if the losses prove great, said Maura Lizarondo, assistant director of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics.

"You have to provide food -- what else could we do," Lizarondo told AFP.

The Philippines imported 2.4 million tonnes of rice last year, but the bureau had hoped to bring that down to 1.5 million tonnes for 2011.

Initial field reports are not encouraging, with the governor of the key agricultural province of Isabela estimating 385,000 tonnes of rice and 46,400 tonnes of corn will be lost.

Benito Ramos, head of the government's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told reporters in Manila that Isabela's current crop would have to be totally written off.

"All the crops are down," Ramos said. "One hundred percent destroyed."

Those figures were a lot more severe than the initial estimates provided by the agriculture ministry.

The ministry said at least 105,000 tonnes of rice as well as 33,000 tonnes of corn would be lost in the Cagayan river basin, which includes Isabela.

Megi also damaged two government-owned rice warehouses in Isabela, leading to another 804 tonnes in grain being losses, the ministry said.

Although the northern third of the country is regularly struck by typhoons, the timing of Megi was crucial because it coincided with the biggest of the year's four harvests, Lizarondo said.

"That's the way it is with agriculture. Even if you put in all the inputs like irrigation and fertiliser, it is still very dependent on the weather," Lizarondo added.

The Cagayan valley accounted for 13.25 percent of last year's rice output and 24.26 percent of corn production, Lizarondo said.

The National Food Authority, the state grains importing monopoly, had no immediate comment on the possible effect on rice import volumes.

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