Floods wash away agri growth potential

Published November 17, 2020, 4:26 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The country’s agriculture sector’s potential to grow significantly within this year has been wiped out by floods brought about by Typhoon Ulysses, an international think tank said.  

Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) Director Glenn B. Gregorio said that it is now unlikely for agriculture, the only subsector in the Philippine economy that registered growth throughout the pandemic, to keep its momentum until the end of the year.

SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio

This, according to him, is due to Ulysses, together with other typhoons that hit the country over the last few weeks.

“It should be noted that the positive 0.7 percent growth of the agriculture sector in the third quarter of 2020 is largely due to the favorable crops production, particularly rice and corn. However, crop production systems are highly vulnerable to typhoons that have been increasing both in intensity and frequency,” Gregorio said on Tuesday.  

“With these, crop production is expected to contract in the Q4 of 2020 resulting in a high chance for the agriculture sector posting a negative growth,” he added.

He said this is unfortunate because among the major economic sectors of the country, it is only the agriculture sector that has managed to achieve a positive growth since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was praying that this be sustained for the rest of the year to show how resilient the agriculture sector is, until the back-to-back typhoons this November happened,” he said.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that from July to September, farm sector’s production managed to grow by 0.7 percent.

Albeit slower compared to the 2.3 percent growth the sector pulled off during the same period last year,

the Philippine government still celebrated this, especially after the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP) slipped by 11.5 percent from July to September.

To be specific, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he was “delighted to know that the country’s agriculture sector once again performed positively during the third quarter of the year, despite the combined effects of the community lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic and severe weather conditions during the months of July to September”.

“We are on the right track particularly on our palay and corn production program initiatives in partnership with farmers’ groups, local government units and the private sector,” Dar said.

In August, Dar said he hopes that the country’s total agriculture production will grow by 1.5 percent by the end of 2020. 

Meanwhile, Gregorio pointed out that the impact of typhoons is not just incurred during and immediately after a typhoon’s departure.

“Surely, the true cost of the typhoon’s wrath includes both the short- and long-term impacts, and it is the latter that must also be given due attention if we are to be wiser in how to build back better sooner, Gregorio said.

Gregorio said that due to Typhoon Ulysses, rice production could decline by 5 percent during the fourth quarter of this year, which is equivalent to a loss of 930.17 thousand metric tons (MT).

This handout aerial photo taken and recieved on November 14, 2020 from the Philippine Coast Guard shows submerged houses in Cagayan province, north of Manila, on November 14, 2020, days after Typhoon Vamco hit parts of the country bringing heavy rain and flooding. (Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard / AFP) /

“Much is surely at stake here given that Cagayan Valley is a rice granary of the northern Philippines and comprises major rice-producing provinces like Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino,” Gregorio said, referring to the massive, unprecedented flooding being experienced now in Cagayan province.

During the fourth quarter of this year, rice was estimated to have increased by 7 percent in Cagayan

Valley alone, with total projected production of 1.01 million MT. 

However, the massive flooding in Cagayan Valley due to Typhoon Ulysses has resulted in a minimum of 12 percent loss in rice production of the country or 930.17 thousand MT.

“Recovery efforts especially in the rice farming communities in Cagayan Valley would require substantial financial stimulus to afford the farmers the necessary capital to bounce back. Immediate response would mean adoption of a highly adaptable set of integrated technological intervention for the agriculture sector,” Gregorio said.  

“But as our country remains vulnerable to typhoons year in and year out, a systemic future-proofing intervention is surely needed and enabled by the transformative level of innovations necessary to make it operational and sustainable,” he added.