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Typhoon Haiyan’s Aftermath Threatens Rice Harvest in Philippines

Extreme weather often has the greatest impact on the most vulnerable. And now hundreds of thousands of farmers in central Philippine must recover from significant crop losses in wake of Typhoon Haiyan, even as they struggle to prepare for the next rice-planting season in December.

The United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization has called for $24 million in aid to 250,000 Philippines households involved in agriculture and fisheries. “Initial estimates reveal that hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice and other key crops like coconut have been affected due to the typhoon,” Dominique Burgeon, director of FAO’s emergency and rehabilitation division, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Planting of the secondary season, mostly irrigated rice, was well underway and it is expected that crops are severely compromised.”

The FAO estimates that one-third of rice-producing regions in the country were “severely affected” by the typhoon. Irrigation systems and grain-storage facilities also suffered significant damage. “If we want to avoid entire regions of the country having to rely on food aid, we need to act now to help vulnerable families to plant or replant by late December,” Burgeon said. Typhoon Haiyan has already displaced more than 4 million people, according to estimates from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

While damage from future storm surges will be difficult to control, scientists at the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute are now breeding and studying varieties of rice that can be more resilient in the face of changing climate conditions, including flooding, drought, and extreme high and low temperatures.

Larson is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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