Salceda seeks DA’s urgent help for Albay farmers against rice tungro virus infestation

LEGAZPI CITY – Albay Second District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has urgently asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to control the rice tungro virus (RTV) infestation in at least three municipalities in Albay’s third district, where some I,000 hectares of rice farms have already been ravaged as of Saturday, April 24.

Quoting recent reports from municipal agriculturists, Salceda said the infestation has so far affected about 375 hectares in his hometown Polangui, 221 in Libon, and 187 in Oas, mostly in their delicate reproductive stage. The neighboring municipalities form part of what is considered as Albay’s rice granary.  

Salceda, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, had immediately notified Agriculture Secretary William Dar and asked for “initiatives to control and manage the infestation.”

“They are the rice granaries of Albay. I seek immediate assistance for the affected farmers and for measures to preempt its contagion. Should funds be required, I will help secure the funding,” Salceda said in a text message to Dar.

Dar, in turn, had promised to immediately act on the Congressman’s request. The DA in Bicol had earlier alerted rice farmers in Albay, especially in the third district, against tungro, a disease usually transmitted by green leafhoppers. The leaves of infected rice plants usually turn yellow orange in color. It starts in clusters and spreads around neighboring plants.

The DA said it has initially provided Libon farmers some 20 liters of insecticide to be sprayed in the affected areas, which could initially cover 80 hectares.

Salceda said farmers have raised concerns the infestation could spread and bring untold damage if not immediately stopped. Most of the rice crops were not insured and local prices of palay were down to P13.50 per kilo, as against the escallatings cost of farm inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

Decades back, tungro had infested wide areas in Central Luzon and had caused tremendous damage and misery among farmers.