DAMAGE FROM TYPHOON IS SEVERE

Agri sector faces bleak prospects for 2017

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Still reeling from a dismal performance in 2015, the farm sector may post marginal or flat growth for 2016 because of the damage from Typhoon “Nina” in December and the absence of clear signals that the sector has indeed recovered from the impact of El Niño.

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Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol told reporters the devastation from the typhoon that hit three regions just before Christmas was enough to weigh on agriculture production in 2016.

“I would not be very optimistic at this point in time as the abaca industry was wiped out, and coconuts in Quezon and the Bicol region were also affected,” Piñol said.

“We have to realistically reduce our target by 2 to 3 percent. It would be okay for me, for us to break even,” he added.

The DA chief earlier said he expected the farm sector to grow as much as 5 percent in 2017, banking on the supposed bumper harvest in the crops subsector in the last quarter of 2016—despite three consecutive quarters of massive declines in output.

“This is a farmer’s gut feel,” the DA chief, said, debunking projections and previous scientific data collected by other government agencies.

He emphasized that his “visual appreciation” during his recent farm visits in the countryside showed bountiful harvests to cap the year, offsetting losses in the previous three quarters.

The DA chief said agriculture should grow by 7 to 8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 alone to achieve a respectable growth.

“I’ve been traveling around the county and I can tell you that this season will be another bumper harvest, because of better weather conditions,” Piñol said. “So we are optimistic that the agri sector will post between 3.5 and 5 percent for the whole 2016.”

The farm sector has suffered three consecutive quarters of declines as a result of the El Niño episode that hit the country in the latter part of 2015.

In 2015, agriculture grew a dismal 0.11 percent as a prolonged dry spell and typhoons took their toll on crops and fisheries, which resulted in a 0.96-percent contraction in the fourth quarter of 2015.

This was followed a 4.53-percent and 2.34-percent contraction in the first and second quarters of 2016, respectively.

Economists, however, noted agricultural output contracted by 1.53 percent on average in January-September 2016. This means that the agriculture sector will have to grow by 18.5 to 24.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 to achieve Piñol’s projections.

Latest data showed that the damage suffered by the farm sector from Typhoon Nina has reached over P5.32 billion involving 124,052 hectares in three regions.

For the rice sector, some 204,103 metric tons (MT) of palay were lost, amounting to P2.25 billion. Corn posted 56,826 MT in losses worth P608.8 million; high value crops, P1.7 billion; and livestock, P56.22 million.

The damage to the abaca sector in the Bicol region was valued at P608.7 million. More than 1.56 million coconut trees were also affected in Camarines Sur.

Christopher Morales, head of the DA’s Field Programs Operational Planning Division, said the drone team deployed in rice and corn areas reported that most of the crops affected by the typhoon were in the reproductive and maturing stages.

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