Despite the persistence of COVID-19 pandemic and with impacts of recent typhoons to spill over until the first half of 2021, the agriculture sector is still expected to grow 2.5 percent next year.
Likewise, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has not yet totally given up on a growth performance of less than 1 percent for the farm sector for 2020 even if it has been considered the “most challenging year for the Philippine agriculture sector.”
“We expect a modest growth of 1 percent in 2020. For 2021, we target to attain a conservative 2.5 percent growth,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the global and national economy. But, no matter what happens, people must eat. For this reason alone, agriculture registered positive contributions to the economy compared to the other movers of the economy such as construction, real estate, and manufacturing,” Dar pointed out.
In 2019, the agriculture chief was also expecting the farm sector to grow by 2 percent to 2.5 percent, but it only ended up with a measly growth of 0.7 percent, slightly higher than the 0.6 percent growth posted in 2018.
Earlier in 2020, Dar projected the country’s farm sector to achieve 2 percent growth despite the Tail Volcano eruption causing billions worth of damages to agriculture sector and African Swine Fever (ASF) still out to kill more hogs across the country.
But then the pandemic happened as well as the series of strong typhoons, further affecting the lives of small farmers and fishermen.
Thus, in November, after Typhoon Ulysses hit the country, 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.
“2020 has officially become the most challenging year for the Philippine agriculture sector. Massive stresses faced the country’s farmers and fishers—from volcanic eruption, infectious animal diseases, crop pest infestations, a viral pandemic that resulted in a health crisis, to falling prices of staples, and then finally a series of typhoons in the last quarter,” the DA said.
“But it was also the year when the agriculture sector rose to the occasion and kept the country’s economy afloat with steady and affordable food supply for the population, amid what is possibly the worst economic crisis since World War II,” it added.
For 2021, Dar said the DA will actively pursue the implementation of the Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension System (PAFES).
This will be guided by the provincial commodity investment plan (PCIP), a three-year rolling plan developed by the World Bank-funded Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP).
The PCIP also serves as the basis for identifying needed infrastructure and enterprise development sub-projects that can be funded by PRDP, with counterparts from local government units (LGUs).
The DA will also work on upscaling the implementation of “Agriculture 4.0,” or the so-called fourth agricultural revolution, which seeks the use of smart farming technologies.
Earlier, Dar said that in general, the agriculture sector should grow beyond the country’s population growth rate to ensure food security.
Based on the latest National Quickstat data, the country’s population grows at average rate of 2.04 percent annually.