By Madelaine B. Miraflor
It would be a long shot but the Department of Agriculture (DA) still wants to see the country’s agriculture exports turning in some revenues even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was after exports of agriculture and fishery products provided the bright spot to the otherwise bleak picture of the country’s total trade numbers, inching up by 12 percent from January to March while the rest of the export commodities are down.
Encouraged by the sector’s performance, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said: “DA will work hard to push agriculture exports in the succeeding months as the sector is seen as a major foreign exchange earner with the ability to provide employment to a huge part of the country’s population.”
“Agri-fishery exports will continue to play a major part as the country progresses to the ‘new normal’ at the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to generate revenues and employment, and agriculture is the best sector to answer to this call,” he further said.
From January to March, the country’s agri-fishery exports grew by 12 percent to $1.31 billion from $1.17 billion during the same period last year, a data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.
Amazed, Dar quipped, “this is complete opposite” of the first quarter’s total Philippine exports, which dropped by 5.16 percent to $25.73 billion.
However, the DA was quick to point out the agri-fishery sector was not yet affected by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic during the period in review as the lockdown was imposed only during the last two weeks of the first quarter.
The country’s major trading partners like Japan, China, South Korea and the European Union have not yet imposed import restriction policies at that time.
During the first quarter, the biggest agri-fishery export earners were banana, coconut oil, canned tuna, fresh or dried pineapples, desiccated coconut, other prepared fruits (e.g. banana chips), carrageenan, prepared or preserved pineapples, and other cigarettes containing tobacco.
Banana was the top farm export commodity in terms of value, turning in over $489 million worth of revenues after bouncing back from pre-enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) levels.
This was followed by coconut oil, with total shipments for the period valued at $232 million, higher by 5.4 percent from the previous year’s $220 million.
Exports of shrimp and prawns reached $77 million, although this is 17.2 percent lower than the 2019 value of $93.6 million, while exports of pineapple products (i.e. canned, juice and concentrate) recorded increases with total shipments valued at $97 million.
Shipments of sugar, one of the country’s traditional export commodities, likewise increased by 10.7 percent to $1.66 million from $1.5 million a year ago.