Oxfam warns time is running out to help rice farmers in areas of Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan

By Oxfam America

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MANILA – Millions of people in the Philippines will go hungry in the coming months if rice farmers don’t receive urgent assistance, today warned Oxfam, an international humanitarian relief and development organization. Typhoon Haiyan wiped out one-third of the country’s rice growing areas. Meanwhile, thousands of Filipinos are dead. More than four million are homeless. And millions have lost the means to support their families.

Rice crops harvests in the five regions most affected by the disaster have been decimated, according to Oxfam and the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Missing the next rice planting season in December would leave millions of Filipinos without their staple food for daily consumption as well as a huge loss of income and increased debt for farmers.

“Time is fast running out to get the assistance to poor farmers they so urgently need,” said Justin Morgan, Oxfam’s country director in the Philippines. “They must meet the deadline for the planting season in December if they are to start to recover from the typhoon.

“Failing to immediately provide seeds, fertilizer and tools will put millions of people at risk of severe hunger in the coming months, compounding the impact of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan.”

Typhoon Haiyan hit the country just as farmers were harvesting the main season paddy crop representing over 50 percent of the annual production.

Oxfam is calling on international donors to urgently help fill the funding gap for the agricultural part of the UN Haiyan Action Plan which is currently severely underfunded at less than 9 percent (OCHA 19th November).

“The US government must move quickly to commit disaster assistance funds to help Filipino farmers recover their agricultural livelihoods in the hardest hit areas,” said Gawain Kripke, Oxfam America’s director of policy.

“The US Agency for International Development should prioritize assistance to help Filipino producers rebuild their livelihoods, local economies and safeguard against widespread food insecurity. To address current need, the US should immediately exempt the Philippine emergency response from the layers of complex rules and regulations governing US food aid that is causing significant delays in getting life-saving stocks of US rice to Filipinos in desperate need,” added Kripke.

In the short term, the Philippines National Food Authority (NFA) must also deliver rice from local harvests in areas of the country unaffected by the disaster to those in need. NFA also must ensure that farmers are receiving support to enable them to diversify the types of crops they can grow.

Philippines National Rice Farmers council spokesperson Jaime Tadeo said: “Farmers need help to recover from the devastation of their farms and livelihoods including locally adapted seeds, vegetables and other crops to diversify their sources of income.”

Justin Morgan added: “Aid Agencies on the ground are providing as much support to farmers at this crucial time as possible.  Oxfam teams are working in Samar and Leyte, two key rice producing areas, supporting farmers in clearing and restoring farm production areas.”

“It is, however, essential for international donors to give more money for agriculture support right now so that farmers can plant more rice, diversify their crops and repair key infrastructure and therefore prevent an even greater food emergency down the line.”

NOTES

Typhoon Haiyan has wiped out one third of the Philippines’ rice growing areas according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. FAO has downgraded its forecast for the 2013 rice production in the country from 18.9 million tons to 18 million tons, according to FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) on 19 November.

The rice production shortfall of 900,000 tons will be felt disproportionally in the five most affected regions.  The Eastern Visayas region, the worst affected region has a total rice growing area of 157,632 hectares accounting for 22% of its total agriculture area. In 2012, the region had a total rice production output of 994,972 metric tons supplying the region’s basic staple needs.

Oxfam has worked with farmers and fisher folk in different parts of the Philippines for many years especially by supporting initiatives aimed at improving terms and conditions for poor farming communities.