By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Reporter

THE agriculture sector’s growth likely slowed in the fourth quarter, after a string of strong typhoons devastated rice-producing areas.

Glenn B. Gregorio, director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), said the agriculture sector will post 0.58% growth in the fourth quarter, slower than the 0.7% growth in the third quarter. However, this will be a slight improvement from the 0.1% drop in farm output in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Mr. Gregorio said the crops subsector is seen to grow by 3.66%, while the fisheries subsector is estimated to rise by 1.69%.

“However, comparable to the previous quarters, the livestock and poultry sectors are estimated to experience negative growth rates at -6.37% and -3.45%, respectively,” Mr. Gregorio said.

Several typhoons, namely, Quinta, Rolly, Ulysses and Vicky, swept through the country in the last three months of 2020. Data from the Department of Agriculture showed the combined crop damage caused by Quinta and Rolly reached P8.46 billion, while losses from Ulysses amounted to P6.72 billion, and damage from Vicky totaled P129.8 million.

In a mobile phone message, Roy S. Kempis, a professor at Pampanga State Agricultural University, said the agriculture sector’s slow growth in the fourth quarter was due to the massive flooding that damaged crops and other farm produce.

“The growth of the agricultural sector in the fourth quarter of 2020 is slower than the third quarter of 2020, and is seen to improve 0.25% to 0.75%,” Mr. Kempis said.

Mr. Kempis said increased food consumption during the holiday season might have a positive effect for the farm sector, but is not enough to offset the typhoons’ damage.

“With recovery still ongoing in Luzon in the fourth quarter and then the weather disturbances in Visayas and Mindanao, the last quarter of 2020 could not be better than the third quarter,” he added.

In an e-mail interview, former Agriculture Undersecretary and current Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Monetary Board member V. Bruce J. Tolentino said historical data show about 90% of typhoon damage takes place from July to December, with November being the most affected.

“The quarterly numbers are the result of artificially dividing the seasonal performance of crops. Most of the movements in these numbers are due to price fluctuations,” Mr. Tolentino said.

Rolando T. Dy, executive director of Center for Food and Agri-Business of University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P), expected the farm sector to have declined by 2% in the October to December period.

“Typhoons and floods are setbacks for crops, while hogs are afflicted with African Swine Fever (ASF). I see the sector posting -2% for the fourth quarter,” Mr. Dy said in a mobile phone message.

During a virtual briefing on Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said they are hopeful that the PSA’s result will turn out positive.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is scheduled to release agricultural production data today.

Mr. Dar previously said he is hoping that the agriculture sector could grow by 1.5% by the end of 2020, lower than the previous 2% target.

According to PSA data, the farm sector accounts for about a tenth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and around a quarter of the national workforce.