After several quarters of production decline due to the El Niño climate phenomenon that affected large parts of the country in 2015, Philippine agricultural output recovered in the first three months of 2017, posting a 5.28-percent gain year-on-year.
In its Performance of Philippine Agriculture (January-March 2017) report released on Monday, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said that farm output grew 5.28 percent in January to March 2017 with all subsectors,
particularly the crops subsector, posting production increases.
“At current prices, the gross value of agricultural production amounted to P407.6 billion. This was 8.79 percent higher than the previous year’s record,” the PSA added.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, who earlier predicted a low 2 percent growth rate for the period, was quick to attribute the “strong” performance of the farm sector to the support of President Rodrigo Duterte, and the hard work and dedication of the officials and workers of the Department of Agriculture.
“The growth of agri sector could be attributed to the blessings of good climate and favorable weather conditions. It is also an indication that we are on the right track in agri and fisheries development,” Piñol said in a text message.
Piñol said much more needs to be done, particularly in the access to easy financing to further boost agri and fisheries productivity.
“We need to work harder…. this is just the beginning of greater things. All we need to do is to faithfully follow the roadmaps we have prepared and we cannot go wrong,” he added.
The growth in the agriculture sector in the first quarter could also be partly attributed to a low base effect, however, as the sector contracted by 4.62 percent in the first quarter of 2016, a result of a prolonged drought due to the El Niño, and typhoons that struck the country’s major agriculture areas late in 2015.
Rolando Dy, economist and executive director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific, said that recovery from El Nino was expected in the first quarter and the rest of the year.
“Agri fell 4.5 percent last year over 2015. To return to 2015 levels, agri must grow 4.7 percent… the 5.3 percent growth is good since it comprised the 4.7 percent base effect plus the 0.6 percent upward trend,” Dy said in a text message.
“Given the trend, I expect good agri growth in 2017,” he said, adding that growth in the farm sector could stabilize at 2 to 3 percent next year.
Meanwhile, economists said that the Agriculture department should focus on commodities other than rice, noting that the highly subsidized palay sector only contributes a fifth of the total agriculture Gross Domestic Product.
“Philippine agriculture grew an average of 1.7 percent in the time of Secretary [Proceso] Alcala and President [Benigno] Aquino, which is the lowest in the Asean region. The Duterte administration, unless there is another big weather event, can easily top that,” an economist said.
In the first quarter of 2017, production in the crops subsector, which contributed 53.66 percent to the total agricultural production, went up by 8.28 percent on the back of stronger production in palay and corn farms.
Palay output was pegged at 4.42 million metric tons, up by 12.38 percent from the previous year’s level. This was attributed to the increases in area harvested in most regions due to availability of water in irrigated farms and sufficiency of rainfall in both rainfed and upland farms.
In addition, higher yield levels were observed in most regions, brought about by the usage of high yielding varieties. Likewise, proper fertilizer application and favorable weather conditions pushed up production of palay during the first quarter of the year.
There were also reports of increased plantings as encouraged by the provision of hybrid and certified seeds from the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Offices (DA-RFOs). Early harvesting or movement of the activity from the scheduled second quarter to the first quarter this year was cited in some farms in ARMM, Ilocos Region, CAR and Eastern Visayas.
Corn posted a 23.44 percent increment in production or about 2.37 million metric tons of output in the first quarter of the year.
The higher production record during the period can be traced to the expansion in area harvested as a result of increased plantings induced by the following factors: Sufficiency of water, higher demand for white corn in Ilocos Region and additional provision of quality seeds from the DA-Local Government Units (DA-LGUs).
There were also reports of movement of harvests from the fourth quarter of 2016 to the first quarter this year because of infestation of corn leafhoppers in Sultan Kudarat. Significantly, yield improved due to favorable weather conditions, usage of good quality seeds provided by the DA-LGUs and sufficient soil moisture during the growing stage of the crop.
Production gains were also noted among sugarcane, banana, pineapple, tobacco, peanut, mongo, cassava, tomato, garlic, onion, eggplant and rubber. At current prices, the subsector grossed P233.5 billion, which was 10.45 percent more than last year’s gross receipts.
The livestock subsector posted a 3.22 percent growth in output in the first three months of 2017. It accounted for 16.85 percent of total agricultural output. All components of the subsector recorded production increases.
Hog, the major contributor to the subsector’s performance, registered a 3.50 percent growth in production. The subsector’s gross value of output amounted to P65.4 billion at current prices, representing an increase of 9.37 percent compared to the same period last year.
The poultry subsector with its 15.35 percent contribution to total agricultural production came up with 1.88 percent increase in the first quarter of 2017. Output gains were recorded by all components of the subsector. At current prices, the gross value of poultry production amounted to P52.9 billion, or 2.18 percent higher than previous year’s record.
The fisheries subsector produced 0.73 percent more output during the period. It contributed 14.15 percent to total agricultural output. Production increases were noted for skipjack at 43.10 percent, yellowfin tuna at 17.32 percent, tilapia at 2.08 percent and seaweed at 1.26 percent. At current prices, the subsector grossed P55.7 billion. This indicated a 7.95 percent improvement compared to last year’s gross earnings.
On the average, prices received by farmers increased by 3.34 percent in the first quarter of 2017. Price gains were higher in the livestock and fisheries subsectors at 5.96 percent and 7.17 percent, respectively. The crops subsector posted an average price increase of 2.01 percent, while prices in the poultry subsector inched up by 0.29 percent from the 2016 record.