Typhoon Haiyan Devastates Agriculture in the Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan  ©NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
Typhoon Haiyan ©NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms on record tore through the Philippines on 8th November. With a confirmed death toll of 4,460, 4 million people displaced and 13 million people affected, the typhoon has undoubtedly caused widespread destruction and devastation. The destruction to the country’s agricultural sectors is becoming increasingly evident. An estimated 153,495 ha of crops have been damaged causing losses of $225 million and the livelihoods of over 1 million farmers adversely affected.

 

 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations stated that “High winds, heavy rains and localized floods destroyed houses and infrastructure, including irrigation facilities, and resulted in losses of the main staple rice paddy, sugarcane and coconut crops, as well as livestock, poultry and fisheries”.

A forecasted 77,476 ha of rice crops and 20,951 ha of maize have been damaged along with thousands of hectares of other high value crops such as coconuts and sugar cane.

Haiyan struck during the major rice harvesting season and has consequently destroyed a third of the crop. Rice production provides jobs for millions of Filipinos. Earlier this year the Philippines Department of Agriculture declared that rice production could reach record levels. Haiyan has destroyed this goal and set back future goals of self-sufficiency. Imports of rice are therefore estimated to increase by 20% in 2014.

Coconut trees uprooted by the typhoon ©U/ECHO, Arlynn Aquino
Coconut trees damaged and uprooted by the typhoon ©U/ECHO, Arlynn Aquino

The Philippines is the World’s biggest producer of coconut oil and it accounts for half of the country’s agricultural exports. Unlike sugar cane, coconut requires numerous years to replenish and recover productivity. The FAO anticipate ‘severe impacts’ on the production of coconuts as many storage facilities have been destroyed along with plantations.

Damage to fisheries is also a major concern as all fishing vessels were destroyed on some of the most important fishing islands. The output from fisheries constitutes 20% of the agricultural productivity of the Philippines.

The Philippines is a country unestranged to natural disasters. In December 2012 Typhoon Bopha swept through the southern island of Mindanao devastating around 10,000 ha of banana plantations. However, the recent typhoon largely spared the Philippines major banana producing region.

Recovery of agriculture in the Philippines will depend largely on efficient rehabilitation, for example the provisioning of seeds and fertilisers to farmers and the recovery of storage and irrigation facilities. As a result the FAO is appealing for $24 million for immediate rehabilitation of agriculture and fisheries.

Sources:

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