AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION is seen to have improved in the fourth quarter of 2019 driven by increased spending of Filipinos on food during the Christmas season, and other rice-producing areas filling the gaps for those hit by typhoons in the latter part of the year.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is scheduled to report fourth-quarter farm performance today (Jan. 22).

“The fourth quarter of 2019 should see a rising economic growth for the agriculture and food sectors propelled by expenditures on regular and special food items,” Roy S. Kempis, a professor with Pampanga State Agricultural University, said in an e-mail.

For Rolando T. Dy, Executive Director of the University of Asia and the Pacific Center for Food and Agribusiness, he said fourth-quarter farm output could have grown between “1.5 to 2%.” However, he did not specify factors that might have led to this.

The Agriculture department said output growth likely hit 2.5 to 3% last quarter due to productivity increase plus the support from the department.

In the third quarter of 2019, farm production grew 2.87% versus the downward-revised year-ago print of 0.87% and the second quarter’s contraction of 1.27% as gains in most of the sub-sectors offset the drop seen in palay output, which accounted for 15% of the total value of production.

The third-quarter print was the fastest farm production growth in more than two years or since the 6.2% growth in the second quarter of 2017, and was the best third-quarter output growth since the 3% recorded in 2016.

This brought nine-month agriculture output growth to 0.77%. This compares to the 2.5-3.5% target range for farm output growth under the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan.

In 2018, farm production grew 1.8% in the fourth quarter, which brought full-year agricultural output growth to 0.56%, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed. This is well below the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) 2.5% goal for that year.

Mr. Kempis said the livestock and poultry industries mainly benefitted from the increase in consumers’ food spending.

However, he noted that overall, the performance of both industries “is expected to have declined significantly because of the ASF (African Swine Fever), while the latter only affected the areas immediately surrounding the NCR (National Capital Region), the demand for pork and processed pork products could have been tempered even in areas in the Visayas and Mindanao.”

ASF is a viral disease affecting only domestic and wild pigs. Outbreaks in the country started in July 2019, according to a report submitted by the DA to the World Organization for Animal Health.

Data from the Bureau of Animal Industry showed pigs culled already reached 147,334 heads as of Dec. 15, of which 18% were infected by the virus. Total barangays affected totaled 612 from the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Tarlac, Rizal, Cavite, Pangasinan, and in Metro Manila.

Mr. Kempis also noted that the rice damage caused by typhoons that hit the country at the end of 2019 may have been offset by the output of other rice-producing provinces.

“Although Typhoon Tisoy and Ursula may have challenged this, palay harvests in non-affected areas can still contribute to a good harvest of this staple food,” he added.

Data from the DA showed agricultural damage due to calamities in 2019 reached P16 billion, lower than 2018’s P34.45 billion.

Specifically, for the fourth quarter, Typhoon Nakri (locally known as Typhoon Quiel) caused farm damage of about P334.207 million; Typhoon Kalmaegi (locally known as Typhoon Ramon), led to estimated damage of about P26.607 million; Typhoon Kammuri (Typhoon Tisoy) caused P3.7 billion worth of production loss; and Typhoon Phanfone (Typhoon Ursula) caused P3.05 billion worth of damage. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang