By Vincent Mariel P. Galang

AGRICULTURE PRODUCTION could have recovered slightly in the third quarter from contractions in the preceding three months and a year ago, economists said when asked for expectations on farm data which the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) will report on Nov. 6.

Rolando T. Dy, executive director of Center for Food and Agri-Business of University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P), said “[i]t looks like agriculture is heading towards near one percent” growth, with some pullback from palay which contributes nearly a fifth of value of farm output that was partly offset by corn.

The PSA last month estimated that production of palay dropped 4.7% to 3.05 million metric tons (MMT) in the third quarter from the 3.2 MMT produced in 2018’s comparable three months, while corn output increased by a fourth to 2.76 MMT from 2.2 MMT.

Agricultural output, which accounts for a fourth of the country’s jobs but contributes just a tenth to gross domestic product, dropped 1.27% in the second quarter and by 0.87% in last year’s third quarter. The sector’s production managed to edge up by 0.64% in this year’s first three months.

These brought first semester farm performance to a 0.24% contraction, versus a 0.63% gain in last year’s first six months. That compared to the 2.5-3.5% target range for farm output growth under the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan.

In a telephone interview, UA&P Professor Victor A. Abola said he expected third-quarter farm output to have posted “a recovery from last year” with a 1.2% expansion.

University of the Philippines School of Economics Professor Ramon L. Clarete did not give an estimate for third-quarter farm performance, but noted that the third quarter every year is considered a lean season for palay production and that a dry spell aggravated the situation.

Michael L. Ricafort, economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said in a mobile phone message that “agriculture growth could still be modest at low single-digit year-on-year growth rate in third quarter 2019” with rice production reeling from increased importation under a recently liberalized regime.