Fresh produce is sold at the Marikina Public Market, Oct. 7. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ WALTER BOLLOZOS

THE COUNTRY’S agricultural production is expected to expand up to 2.5% in 2023, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Agriculture Undersecretary Mercidita A. Sombilla said the agriculture sector may grow faster in 2023 compared with this year.

“Hopefully we will be at 1.2% growth, so far we are expecting around 1.2% to 1.5% for this year. For 2023, our goal is 2.3% to 2.5%,” she told reporters on the sidelines of the DA’s yearender briefing on Monday.   

Preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed the value of production in agriculture and fisheries at constant 2018 prices expanded by 1.8% in the third quarter, as growth in crops, livestock and poultry sectors offset the decline in fisheries output.

The third-quarter growth was a reversal of the 0.6% contraction in the second quarter, and the 2.6% decline in the same quarter in 2021.

For the January-to-September period, the value of agricultural production edged up 0.3%, reversing the 2.5% decline a year ago.

Despite challenges, Ms. Sombilla said the sector’s growth will likely be driven by the crops, livestock, and poultry sectors.

“I think the fourth quarter will give us a positive outlook,” she said.

However, Ms. Sombilla said the DA does not see any supply shortages of agricultural commodities next year.

“We don’t have any shortage of rice, low beginning stocks, yes. We suffered losses because of back-to-back typhoons but we don’t have shortage of supply,” she said.

Several typhoons caused significant agricultural damage, causing supply shortages this year. This has driven prices of key agricultural commodities higher in recent months.

Headline inflation accelerated to a 14-year high of 8% in November, mainly due to the spike in food prices. Prices of vegetables, fruits, and rice rose as a result of lower production brought about by  typhoon damage and higher cost of inputs.

Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban said onion supply will be enough next year as local supplies will enter the market in January and February.

“I think that we are in a position that by next year we shall have more supply,” he said at the same briefing.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary James A. Layug said the department is now in coordination with the Department of Justice to create a legal team against agricultural smuggling.   

Meanwhile, Mr. Panganiban defended President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s decision to extend the reduction in tariffs on pork, corn, and rice until Dec. 31, 2023.

He said the DA is working to increase the production of agricultural products, and additional imports will ensure enough supply is available and keep prices stable.

“We need to balance the supply, in the case of typhoons during harvest season. We don’t want to see people suffering because of the rise of the prices. We need to stabilize production to lower the price,” Ms. Sombilla said. — AEOJ