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Agriculture production shrinks 3.3%

CROPS OUTPUT, which made up 59% of the agriculture sector’s total production, jumped 3.3% in the first quarter. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE COUNTRY’S agricultural output shrank by an annual 3.3% in the first quarter, as livestock and poultry production contracted, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Monday.

In a statement, the PSA said the value of production in the agriculture sector at constant 2018 prices dropped by 3.3% in the January to March period, lower than the -1.7% a year ago. However, this was still a slight improvement from the -3.8% posted in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“This was due to the reduction in the livestock and poultry production. On the other hand, crops and fisheries both recorded increases in production,” the PSA said.

Performance of Philippine Agriculture

At current prices, the value of agricultural production went up 8.2% to P484.8 billion in the first three months of 2021.

Livestock production, which accounts for 14% of the agriculture sector’s output, slumped by 23.2%.

Hogs, a major contributor to the livestock subsector, saw output decline by 25.8% due to the prolonged outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF). Production also dropped in the following subsectors: cattle (-10.2%), carabao (-7.4%), goat (-6.7%) and dairy  (-1.5%).

“We expected the poor performance of the hog industry as our efforts to control ASF and repopulate ASF-free areas are yet to bear fruits,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said in a statement on Monday.

Rolando T. Dy, Center for Food and Agri-Business of the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) executive director, said the livestock subsector, particularly the hog industry, will be able to build up its stocks by 2022.

“It takes time to build up (hog) stocks. Hog raising is different from planting crops,” Mr. Dy said in a mobile phone message.

Poultry output, which accounted for 13.3% of the agriculture sector’s total value of production, dropped by 7.4%. Duck and chicken production declined by 11.6% and 11.2%, respectively.

On the other hand, chicken egg production increased by 3%, while duck eggs rose by 0.7%.   

United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA) President Elias Jose M. Inciong said in a mobile phone message that the poultry industry shrank due to low demand as quarantine measures continued to be implemented.

“It is due to low demand. Even if the country goes beyond general community quarantine, to modified general community quarantine, and to new normal, the demand will not immediately recover to pre-pandemic levels,” Mr. Inciong said.

“For demand to improve, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) must be controlled to avoid having lockdowns,” he added.

Meanwhile, crops output, which made up 59% of the agriculture sector’s total production, jumped 3.3% in the first quarter, driven by higher palay and corn production.

Palay, or unmilled rice, output rose 8.6%, while corn production increased by 6.5%. Production also increased for coffee (12.4%), cacao (11.8%), and mongo (6.2%).

“Crops are expected to increase due to support to rice through the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), and the experienced good weather during the period,” Glenn B. Gregorio, Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) Director said in a mobile phone message.   

However, other crops saw a decline in output, such as potato (-26.4%), abaca (-15.3%), onion (-13.7%), and cabbage (-9.6%).

Fisheries output inched up 0.6%, thanks to double-digit growth for mudcrab or alimango (20.2%), skipjack or gulyasan (19%) and slipmouth or sapsap (15.7%). Fisheries made up 13.7% of the agriculture sector’s total value of production.

On the other hand, there was lower production of fimbriated sardines or tunsoy (-37.5%), threadfin bream or bisugo (-18.7%), yellow fin tuna or tambakol (-17.6%), grouper or lapu-lapu (-13%), and frigate tuna or tulingan (-7.3%).

Asis G. Perez, Tugon Kabuhayan convenor, said in a mobile phone message that the performance of the fisheries subsector reflects the adjustments made by the industry amid the pandemic.

“It is important for the fisheries subsector to increase it productivity to fill the gap in animal protein availability,” Mr. Perez said. 

Mr. Perez, a former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) national director, expects the fisheries subsector will continue its strong performance after closed fishing season ends in major fishing areas in the country.

However, he raised his concerns over the presence of Chinese vessels in parts of the West Philippine Sea.   

“Based on government estimate, (it is) 1 ton per day. My own estimate is more since their vessels were described as 60 meters. Just to maintain those vessels require a least 5 tons of daily catch. This is why we are concerned,” Mr. Perez said. 

The Agriculture department is targeting 2.5% growth for the agriculture sector this year.

First-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data will be released today (May 11). Agriculture accounts for a tenth of overall economic output. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave