Pinning hopes on government reforms, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol expects the country’s farm sector to post growth of as much as 5 percent in 2016, buoyed by a bumper crop harvest in the fourth quarter of 2016.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Piñol said the agriculture sector will grow 3.5 to 5 percent for full-year 2016, despite three consecutive quarters of declines.
“This is a farmer’s gut feel,” the DA chief, said, debunking projections and previous scientific data collected by other government agencies.
His “visual appreciation” during his farm visits in the countryside showed bountiful harvests to cap the year, offsetting losses in previous quarters.
To achieve the projected growth, the DA chief said the sector must grow by 7 to 8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 alone.
“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 sector is coming from three consecutive quarters of negative growth as a result of the El Niño episode that hit the country in 2015.
Last year, agriculture output grew by 0.11 percent as prolonged dry spell and typhoons took toll on the crops and fisheries subsectors, which resulted in a 0.96 percent contraction in the fourth quarter of 2015.
This was followed by 4.53 percent and 2.34 percent contraction for the first and second quarters of 2016, respectively.
Agriculture output contracted by 1.53 percent on average in January to September 2016.
“Grain crops [will be]the main driver of growth in the fourth quarter. We also expect livestock to perform better this time of year as production picks up with the expected greater demand for the Christmas season,” Piñol said.
The two consecutive typhoons that hit the country in the third quarter of the year had little impact on rice and corn production, and farmers were able to recover immediately due to government intervention and quick-turnaround programs.
“The first two quarters, you have to understand, the El Niño hit the grains and fruits sector – coconut trees didn’t bear fruits during the last few months. Third quarter growth was because of God … That was divine intervention,” he said.
Piñol expects the recovery in the crop subsector, particularly palay and corn, to continue next year. “I think the first quarter would post positive growth,” he said.
Palay and corn production is expected to growth in the second half of the year, but may not be enough to offset losses due to the prolonged dry spell that hit the country late last year.
The Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) Rice and Corn Situation and Outlook-October Round, noted the July to December palay output may grow by 4.49 percent and corn by 7.20 percent.
“Palay production for January to December 2016 is forecast at 17.91 million MT, 1.30 percent below the 2015 output of 18.15 million MT,” PSA said, citing a contraction in the harvest area.
The January to March 2017 forecast is based on farmers’ planting intentions, which indicate a production increase of 12.27 percent to 4.42 million MT, from 3.93 million MT in 2016. The increase may come from a 7.35 percent increase in the harvest area and the use of high-yielding seed varieties, the PSA said.