Agriculture ekes out 1% growth in 2018

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

The country's agriculture sector crawled to a 1-percent growth in 2018, way slower than the 4 percent growth it had in 2017, due to several typhoons, including Super Typhoon Ompong.

But because of higher fuel tax, which eventually drove inflation, the sector's output was valued higher by 4 percent to P521.2 billion throughout the year.

A data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that from January to December, agricultural production increased by only 0.56 percent, which is lower than the 4 percent growth the sector has achieved in 2017 and is not anywhere near the Department of Agriculture's (DA) initial targets for 2018, which has been revised a couple of times.

First, the agency was expecting the sector to grow by at least the same level as it did two years ago. By December, it became much more realistic with a growth forecast of 2.5 percent.

Then a review of the sector's performance done by the DA's Management Council (MANCOM) showed Philippine agriculture and fisheries may have just went up by 1 percent last year.

At current prices, the gross value of agricultural production amounted to P521.2 billion, which is higher than the previous years level of P500 billion in 2017 and P456.4 billion in 2016.

The latest PSA data said crops, livestock, poultry and fisheries contributed to the higher production in 2018. In the last three months of the year alone, the agriculture sector grew by 1.80 percent.

Crops production slightly increased by 0.25 percent, accounting for 50.40 percent of the total agricultural output.

Palay production, however, declined by 2.20 percent while corn production grew by 10.82 percent.

As early as the third quarter of last year, when the sector went down by nearly 1 percent for the first time in more than a year, Rolando Dy, executive director of the University of Asia and the Pacific's Center for Food and Agri Business, already said the performance of the sector in the fourth quarter will "likely be low negatives to flat".

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that for this year, early projections showed a better year for the agriculture sector, especially for crops, but the agency is also banking heavily on the additional budget that it may get once the Rice Tariffication Bill and Coconut Levy Act are already signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Under the Rice Tariffication Bill, an initial budget of P10 billion should be injected to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which is the tariff collected from all the imported rice set to enter the country sans the quantitative restriction (QR).

Coconut Levy Act, on the other hand, signals the release of the P100-billion coco levy fund, which will be handled by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), an attached agency to DA.

On the back of RCEF, DA Assistant Secretary for Operations Andrew Villacorta said farmers may be able to grow their overall output to 20 million metric tons (MT) this year.

Meanwhile, increases in production were registered by coconut, banana, pineapple, coffee, mango, tobacco, abaca, mongo, tomato, onion, cabbage and rubber.

At current prices, the value of crop production amounted to P295.4 billion, 2.19 percent higher than the previous year’s record. On an annual basis, crops production posted a 0.98 percent drop in 2018.

Livestock, on the other hand, registered a 1.64 percent increase in production, having a share of 17.74 percent to the total agricultural production, while poultry production expanded by 6.99 percent during the quarter, accounting for 16.18 percent to the total agricultural output.

Fisheries production also went up by 1.93 percent, with a share of 15.68 percent in the total agricultural output.

On the average, prices received by farmers increased by 2.22 percent. Price increments were noted for crops at 1.94 percent, livestock at 5.69 percent and fisheries at 7.80 percent while poultry recorded an average drop of 4.91 percent.

From January to December 2018, farmgate prices went up by an average of 5.62 percent.