Farm output grows slower in Q4, rebounds for the full year

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Palay was a major driver of overall farm output growth in the fourth quarter and full-year 2017. — AFP

VALUE of the country’s farm output grew by its slowest pace in 2017 in the fourth quarter, even as that rate marked a turnaround from a year-ago drop and enabled the sector to rebound to expansion for the full year.

October to December data released on Friday by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed value of agricultural production growing by 2.2% in 2017’s final quarter, slowing from the preceding three months’ 2.32% though still a turnaround from the year-ago 1.09% drop.

Its slower fourth-quarter pace still enabled agriculture to grow 3.95% for the entire 2017, compared to a 2.5-3.5% annual target under the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan and 2016’s 1.4% drop.

Full-year 2017’s growth rate, said Rolando T. Dy, executive director of the University of Asia and the Pacific’s Center for Food and AgriBusiness via mobile phone message, “is a good record compared to PNOY’s (former president Benigno S. C. Aquino II) average of less than 1.5% a year for six years”, adding that for 2018, growth of “2.5-3.5% is attainable”.

Agriculture’s fourth-quarter growth pace likely capped gross domestic product (GDP) expansion for those three months and full-year 2017 which the PSA is scheduled to report on Jan. 23, as the agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing sector has contributed nearly a tenth to GDP even as it has generated a fourth of total jobs. GDP grew by 6.7% in 2017’s first three quarters against the government’s 6.5-7.5% target for the full year, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia had said in mid-December that fourth-quarter GDP expansion was likely “a bit higher than 6.7%”.

Top growth drivers among farm commodities were palay (unmilled rice), hog and chicken.

Palay, which accounted for 25.82% of total value in the fourth quarter, rebounded in value to register a 4.37% growth from a 3.62% fall a year ago.

Full-year 2017 saw palay’s performance rebound to a 6.69% increase from 2016’s 3.3% fall.

In terms of volume, palay production rebounded to a 4.37% growth in 2017’s fourth quarter to 7.318 million metric tons (MMT), compared to a year-ago 3.62% fall, similarly taking full-year performance to a 9.36% growth to 19.276 MMT from 2016’s 2.88% drop.

“This was attributed to the increases in area harvested in CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region), Cagayan Valley, Bicol and Central Visayas due to sufficient water supply during the cropping period and the recovery from damage caused by the series of typhoons in 2016,” PSA said in its report.

Growth of hog production, which contributed 14.80%, slowed to 2.75% from 3.84% for the same comparative quarters. That made full-year value of hog production grow slower by 1.49% from 5.25% in the same comparative years.

Chicken, which made up 12%, grew faster by 3.78% in the fourth quarter from 1.69% a year ago. For the full year, increase of chicken output similarly picked up to 4.26% in 2017 from a nearly flat 0.82% in 2016.

In terms of subsectors, crops — which contributed 51.2% to total value of farm output in the fourth quarter — grew 2.66%, turning around from the year-ago 2.63% drop.

Besides palay, the PSA enumerated this sub-sector’s other growth drivers as banana, cassava, coconut, eggplant, peanut, rubber, sugarcane and sweet potato.

Corn, which contributed 4.76% to the total value of farm production in the fourth quarter, dropped by 5.73% by to 1.629 MMT in 2017’s final three months (compared to a 0.15% slip a year ago), although the grain managed to grow by 9.64% to 7.914 MMT for full-year 2017, turning around from 2016’s 3.99% drop.

The fourth-quarter increase brought crops’ full-year performance to a 6.69% growth in 2017 from 2016’s 3.3% fall.

Livestock, which accounted for 17.78%, saw expansion slip to 1.84% in the fourth quarter from the year-ago 3.41%. For the full year, the subsector grew by 1.12% in 2017, also slower than 2016’s 4.59%.

Fisheries, which made up 15.63%, pared its losses to a 1.18% fall in the fourth quarter from a 2.79% drop a year ago, while full-year performance similarly logged a 1.73% fall in 2017 from 2016’s 4.14% drop.

Poultry, which contributed 15.4%, saw growth pick up to 4.73% in the fourth quarter from a year-ago 1.0%, driving full-year expansion to 4.62% in 2017 from 1.39% in 2016.

The fourth quarter also saw farmers get generally better prices for their produce, PSA reported, as average farm-gate prices grew by 6.91% in the fourth quarter from 2.56% a year ago. “All subsectors registered price increments,” PSA noted, citing crops’ 4.28% (though compared to 5.47% in 2016’s last three months), livestock’s 12.33% (from 0.43%), poultry’s 10.01% (compared to a 4.71% fall) and fisheries’ 9.08% (from 0.63%).

Prices were also generally better all year, with 2017 seeing a 4.97% increase in farm-gate prices compared to 2016’s 3.4% improvement. Full-year improvement of crop farm-gate prices, however, slowed to 2.63% in 2017 from 2016’s 6.66%, as did those of poultry at 1.2% from 2.44%. Farm-gate prices turned around for livestock (11.55% from a 1.92% drop) and fisheries (8.24% from -0.36%)