By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The country’s agriculture sector grew at a slower pace in the first three months of the year, but production value was higher at P444 billion as prices of commodities shoot up during the period.
Based on a data released by Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) yesterday, the agriculture sector slackened in the first quarter of 2018, growing only by 1.47 percent compared to the growth of 5.28 percent it booked in the same period last year.
This was also below the sector’s gross output for the period January to December, 2017, which improved by 3.95 percent.
Although the production was low, its gross value during the first quarter of this year still jumped by 8.94 percent to P444 billion at current prices.
This, as farmgate prices went up by 7.36 percent on the average during the period
Price increases were particularly recorded in all subsectors — crops at 6.33 percent, livestock at 13.07 percent, poultry at 3.13 percent, and fisheries at 9.68 percent.
Meanwhile, PSA explained that contributing to the sector’s overall performance for the quarter were the weaker production gains in the crops, livestock and poultry subsectors.
While declining to comment on the slower growth, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the sector can expect a recovery as the government strengthens its financing programs.
“I am happy that PLEA [Production Loan Easy Access] and SAAD [Special Area for Agricultural Development] programs are now contributing to greater productivity,” he said.
Unlike other subsectors, which only faced a slowdown, production in the fisheries subsector actually declined by 4.61 percent, coming from a measly growth of 1.16 percent in the same period last year.
And even if the fishing ban was seasonal, Piñol said “the decline in fisheries was expected in the first quarter because of the closed fishing season in most fishing grounds all over the country from December to March.”
“It is expected to recover in the second quarter,” he further said.
Contributing 13.36 percent to the total agricultural output, the subsector grossed R58.8 billion.
This represented a 4.63 percent improvement compared to last year’s gross earnings.
Meanwhile, coming from a whopping 8.13 percent growth last year, the crops subsector, which contributed 53.76 percent to total agricultural output, pedaled its way to a growth of only 1.79 percent during the period.
And despite fears of a shortage — which was somehow triggered by the fact that the National Food Authority (NFA) ran out of buffer stocks — palay and corn actually posted production increases of 4.61 percent and 4.66 percent, respectively.
Prices in the crops subsector also went up by an average of 6.33 percent.
This, as the price of palay continued its uptrend with this year’s 10.19 percent increment due to higher buying price from traders, while corn bounced back from previous year’s price cut and recorded a 22.13 percent gain as a result of better quality of kernels and higher demand from feed millers and processors.
Contributing 16.96 percent in the total agricultural production, the livestock subsector, on the other hand, registered a 2.11 percent growth in output, also lower compared to the 3.24 growth it had in the same period last year.
The gross value of livestock production also amounted to P75.5 billion at current prices, which was 15.46 percent more than last year’s record.
In the poultry subsector, production expanded by 5.24 percent, which is faster than the growth of 1.94 percent in the same period last year. It accounted for 15.93 percent of the total agricultural output.
At current prices, the subsector’s gross earnings amounted to P57.5 billion, or 8.53 percent higher than the previous year’s level.