The agriculture sector is expected to contract by more than 1 percent within the first three months of this year on the weight of the lingering impact of strong typhoons, namely Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses, said a top official of an international think tank.
“For the first quarter of 2021, we are projecting that the overall growth rate of the volume of production in agriculture is -1.21 percent,” said Glenn B. Gregorio, director at Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).
“This contraction could be expected as the agriculture sector bounces back after a series of typhoons and floods on top of the disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions,” he added.
Nevertheless, he said fishery is expected to have a positive growth at 3.05 percent, although “such is not the case for crops (-1.17 percent), livestock (6.33 percent) and poultry (-3.99 percent)”.
Noting the positive growth to be expected from the fishery sector, SEARCA is calling for an improved logistics and transport system to increase the competitiveness of the sector.
“The Philippines needs to invest on an integrated infrastructure system that lowers production and transportation costs across the different supply chains,” Gregorio said.
“The private sector is enjoined to invest in cold-storage facilities where various technological adaptations may be applied in our country given that various designs have been made by more advanced countries on this aspect. We believe that this need is very urgent given that the fishing communities remain one of the impoverished sectors in the country,” he added.
Moving forward, he also said that there is also a need to strengthen the resilience of the agriculture sector as natural hazards are becoming more frequent and unavoidable.
“Given the significant impact of typhoons and floods to the crop sector as experienced in 2020 or even in the years prior, we join the clamor for more resilient agricultural farming systems. This clearly requires an increased percentage of Filipino farmers having internalized a decision-support system that would make them more agile and effective in responding to natural hazards and other potential external disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gregorio said.
These efforts, according to him, include improved access to climatic and weather data, stress-tolerant crop varieties, good agricultural practices, crop insurance system, extension system and modern technological support, and innovative financial capital.
For 2021, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is targeting a growth of 2.5 percent for the farm sector.
This, while the agency is hoping the sector to have ended 2020 with growth performance of at least 1 percent even if it was considered the “most challenging year for the Philippine agriculture sector”.
“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,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.