By Argyll Geducos
Malacañang vowed to strengthen the country’s agriculture sector through more focused assistance after the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the sector contributed the least to the growth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles made this disclosure after it was reported that the agriculture sector ‘s contribution to the GDP growth was only 0.8 percent. The PSA said that the country’s GDP growth for 2018 was at 6.2 percent.
In a statement, Nograles said that the government will strengthen, and follow through on initiatives aimed at further strengthening support to farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries.
“We will strengthen agriculture through more focused assistance, with the end in view of addressing farmers’ livelihood concerns, increasing their productivity, and ensuring supply stability and food security for our people,” Nograles said.
Duterte’s economic team acknowledged that agriculture growth slowed to 0.8 percent from 4.0 percent last year, with palay production contracting by 1.0 percent.
The economic team explained that the drop in production of palay, sugar cane, and cassava tempered the gains of the sector in the fourth quarter. This was also due to several typhoons that hit Luzon, a normal occurrence in our country.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo gave Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol the benefit of the doubt following reports of the agriculture sector’s low contribution to GDP growth.
“According to Secretary Piñol merong mga problema rin sa sector niya na ginagawan niya ng paraan. So pabayaan muna siguro natin (there is already a problem in his sector and he’s already working on it. I think we should let him do his job for now),” he said.
“Sometimes you cannot do miracle work overnight,” he added.
Among the government’s initiatives in boosting the agriculture sector was in examining the expansion of credit and loan facilities through the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP). Last year, Duterte directed the LBP to reach out to farmers and provide them with financial assistance.
According to Nograles, the government was assessing the response to the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR’s) new lending facility called the Accessible and Sustainable Lending Program for Small Farmers which set a low six percent annum interest rate.
The former legislator from Davao also said that during congressional deliberations for the 2019 budget, LBP reported a high 62-percent amortization payment compliance by agrarian reform beneficiaries, which meant that financing schemes were empowering farmers.
“Ongoing efforts are underway in closely coordinating with the Department of Agriculture, and the agency is examining our production targets for the coming harvest seasons,” Nograles said.
“Of course we’re already factoring in effects of weather disturbances, prices of farm inputs, and the like,” he added.
Nograles assured that the government will maximize all resources available to ensure that the agriculture sector becomes the driver of the country’s economic growth.
“The government recognizes the importance of the sector and how vital a contributor it is to the Philippine economy.
This is why the agencies involved are working hand in hand to ensure that government interventions have a positive impact on the agriculture sector and its stakeholders, especially our farmers and fisherfolk,” he said.