TARLAC: The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) is confident that the agriculture sector in Central Luzon (CL) can catch up with the country’s industry and other services in spite of the“seemingly slow progress” of its farming sector.
NEDA 3 Regional Director Severino Santos, in a press statement, said the government is doing its best for the agriculture sector to help it arrive at the level of fast growing areas, particularly manufacturing, especially since the region has surpassed the country’s growth rate in six years.
“Despite the marginal economic growth in the agriculture sector, we still consider this as a sunshine industry as Central Luzon is one of the biggest contributors to the overall agricultural activities in the country,” he said.
Based on the latest regional gross domestic product (GRDP) report, agriculture lags behind in growth at 0.1 percent, compared to other sectors which posted double-digit growth rates.
“This does not mean that we failed in achieving our targets. Rather, it is just that other industries accelerate faster than agriculture,” Santos added, noting there are also external factors that affect this growth rate, including climate change and typhoons.
Despite all these spoilers that hamper CL’s agricultural standing, Santos said the government has laid down various programs that will further boost agricultural growth in the region.
In Nueva Ecija alone, which has the largest agricultural area in the region, there are 19 agri-research centers that conduct studies on how CL can better increase agricultural yields.
Farmers used to harvest only about 100-150 cavans of palay (unmiled rice) per hectare but with the use of combined harvester, they doubled this to 300 sacks at most.
“The government has also invested in modern technologies that will boost output. This does not only mean more yield from the land but also additional income for the farmers,” Santos said.
He also cited the provision of modern farm machineries and equipment to the farmers that resulted in the reduction of post-harvest losses from 20 percent to only around 8-10 percent.
“The government is also investing in infrastructure development to protect the farmlands from flooding and other types of calamities,” he said, citing the focus on hybrid technologies to produce crops that can withstand extreme weather conditions.
For the aquaculture industry, distribution of boats and fingerlings to fisherfolk, as well as aid in marketing their products, is also regularly done.
“With these initiatives, we are optimistic that we can achieve our growth and development targets in all sectors towards a more inclusive growth for all,” Santos said.
Records of the Philippine Statistics Authority show that CL registered 341,500 farms for agriculture use, covering 552,100 hectares in 2002. The region’s total agricultural land comprised 25.6 percent of its total land area.
Compared to 1991, the number of farms decreased by 2.7 percent from 350,800. Also, the total area decreased by 12.7 percent from 632,500 hectares.
As a result of this, the average farm size slightly decreased from 1.8 hectares per farm in 1991 to 1.6 hectares per farm in 2002.
The decrease in area of agricultural farms is attributed to the increasing population in the region that is growing at an annual rate of 3.2 percent.
Agricultural lands are converted into residential or commercial lots to cope with population growth especially in the highly urbanized areas.