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Agriculture dep’t maintains 4% farm output growth target

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Emmanuel F. Piñol
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol -- PHILSTAR

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is sticking with the official 4% growth target for farm production output in 2018 despite the first-half growth rate of 0.58%.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol on Friday told reporters that he is still confident that the sector can exceed the target by year’s end, after the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) forecast a bumper harvest for a number of crops this year.

“If we fail to achieve the target, there could be factors beyond our control. But just the same, we maintain the targets,” he added.

First half output “is not reflective of the sector for the whole year because even PSA is saying that it is projecting a bumper harvest for this year.”

Despite storms, both the DA and the agriculture industry expect some boost from the rains in some areas where irrigation is poor.

“We’re expecting another good year for corn,” he said, noting that he rejects proposals to import corn because “it’s the wrong time to import since next month is harvest.”

However, fisheries output is still expected to post lower output as the closed fishing season starts in November.

Farm output in 2017 was 3.97%. The 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan sets a 2.5% to 3.5% target range for farm output growth.

In the first quarter, growth was 1.47%, slowing from 2.2% in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Last week, PSA reported that the second quarter growth further slowed to 0.07% due to the drop in the crops subsector’s output.

Jose Enrique A. Africa, executive director of research group IBON Foundation said in a statement on Friday that agriculture cannot grow due to the government’s neglect of the sector.

“The Duterte administration only pays lip service to improving agricultural productivity amid this severe crisis of agriculture in the countryside. The administration also continues the government’s long-standing neglect of the sector,” he added.

IBON Foundation in its statement noted that the DA received a lower budget in 2019.

IBON Foundation warned that food prices will rise as farm workers shift to other jobs, depressing production.

Mr. Africa said imports, which the DA is resorting ahead of the yearend holidays, should be temporary.

“With importation, uncompetitive domestic producers not given enough support by the government will be displaced if trade protection for them is removed,” he added.

“Importation could also tend to worsen the trade deficit and add to pressure on the peso to depreciate.” — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato