Farm sector growth stalls
The growth in the country’s agriculture sector slowed further in the first quarter of the year, with the value of farm produce posting its first decline since 2016.
This has prompted industry groups to call on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to do something that could reverse the industry’s laggard performance, with prices hitting their lowest in years.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, agriculture grew by 0.67 percent during the three-month period compared with 1.08 percent in the same quarter last year.
In 2018, the DA had set its annual growth rate target at 4 percent, but the sector only grew by 1.04 percent. For this year, it is aiming to grow by 3.5 percent.
Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag), which represents umbrella groups such as the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc. and the United Broilers and Raisers Association, said the DA should stop paying “lip service” to their plight and focus on monitoring local production.
The value of farm output during the first quarter amounted to P429.7 billion, down 3.12 percent from previous year’s level. Sinag said depressed farm-gate prices were caused by the continued entry of imported agricultural products to the country, which only worsened the supply glut of commodities such as poultry and livestock.
Except for fisheries, all subsectors recorded a drop in prices.
Crops, which accounted for more than half of the country’s total farm output, was valued at P235.4 billion, down 6.41 percent from the same period last year. The Rice Import Liberalization Law, which allows the unimpeded importation of rice in the country, has led palay prices to drop by 7.39 percent.
Production of the staple also contracted by 1.1 percent following the adverse effects of dry spell brought by El Niño.
Growth in poultry production, accounting for 16.74 percent of total output, also slowed down to 5.41 percent from 6.99 percent to P55.4 billion.
Similarly, growth in livestock production—17.11 percent of total—eased to 1.25 percent from 1.64 percent previously to P75.4 billion.
Only the fisheries subsector continued its positive turnaround since last quarter from recording a series of declines in production since 2014. For the first quarter, it was able to increase output by 0.97 percent, which contributed 13.45 percent to the total output with value amounting to P63.5 billion.
Sinag said the agency must give priority to local produce than imported ones and monitor the market’s absorptive capacity to address any glut or shortfall to manage the volatility of prices.
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