THE Department of Agriculture’s (DA) target of 2.5% growth in farm output this year is unlikely to be achieved, an economist said.
“The basis for 2% growth in 2018 given stagnation in three quarters is not solid,” Rolando T. Dy, University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) Center for Food and Agribusiness executive director and professor, said in a mobile message.
“It will take a sharp 6% surge in the fourth quarter to land an annual growth of 2%,” Mr. Dy added.
According to Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, the agriculture sector grew 0.15% year-on-year in the first nine months of 2018. The PSA reported that the agriculture sector contracted by 0.83% in the third quarter, including a decline in the crops and fisheries subsectors of 3.64% and 2.64% respectively.
The PSA reported that production of palay (unmilled rice) and corn fell 5.70% and 14.83% respectively during the third quarter.
The fisheries subsector, on the other hand, posted a drop of 2.21% in production in the nine months to September, featuring declines in the production of milkfish, tiger prawn, round scad and yellowfin tuna, and gains in production of tilapia, skipjack and seaweed.
The livestock sub-sector grew 2% in the nine months to September, with poultry production up 5.31%.
PSA said that prices for all subsectors rose this year, by 5.78% for crops, 6.52% for livestock, 13.03% for poultry, and 15.26% for fisheries. Farmgate price jumped by an average of 6.85% in the nine months to September.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol announced last week that economic managers instructed his department to maintain 2% annual growth to keep pace with population growth of 1.7%, but added that the department aims to hit 2.5% growth this year and 3.5% in 2019.
“I think 2% is doable. We are confident that we can hit it given the fact that there are already specific interventions in fisheries for example. We are now addressing the post-harvest issues, we are expecting fisheries to post positive growth by next year because of this. We are investing P300 million for post-harvest facilities,” Mr. Piñol said in the DA’s year-end conference on Dec. 18.
“We are expecting livestock and poultry to grow further especially now that we are focusing on producing more feed grains, for these sectors… We thought of coming up with a program wherein feed grain materials (can) be processed at the farm level so that our hog raisers and poultry raisers will realize more profit because of the lower expense.”
“Also for crops, especially rice, we are expecting a boost from the RCEF (rice competitiveness and enhancement fund). With P10 billion minimum every year, we are expecting that we will be able to serve the good quality seed needs of our farmers and you have to understand that in the rice road map that we have prepared as early as 2016, the availability of good seed material actually was one of the five key factors which our outstanding farmers have identified and they said that this was one of the reasons they are producing eight to ten metric tons (MT) every harvest, so the target set by the economic managers at 2% will be doable, in fact our projection is between 2.5% to 3.5% for 2019,” Mr. Piñol said.
Mr. Dy, on the other hand, also noted that “We cannot grow agriculture by rice alone.” — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio