In a portent on the GDP (gross domestic product) performance in the first quarter which will be announced today, the country’s agricultural production registered a way bigger decline in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2020, but this didn’t prompt the Department of Agriculture (DA) to let go of its full-year ambitious growth target for the sector.
In a text exchange, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that it is still DA’s “aspiration” to achieve its full-year growth target of 2.5 percent for the agriculture sector, despite the sector’s poor performance from January to March of this year, based on the latest data that Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released on Monday.
Agricultural production fell by 3.3 percent in the first three months of 2021, which is a bigger decline compared to a 1.7-percent drop recorded during the same period last year.
This was due to lower outputs recorded in poultry and livestock, which was badly hit by African Swine Fever (ASF), according to PSA.
At current prices, agricultural production was valued at P 484.8 billion, which was an 8.2-percent increase from the previous year’s level.
In a statement, Dar said the poor performance of the sector was expected as “efforts to control ASF and repopulate ASF-free areas are yet to bear fruits”.
“We are aggressively taking steps to help the country’s swine industry recover from the ASF. These include the ‘Bantay ASF sa Barangay’ and its twin hog repopulation program,” said Dar.
During the period, livestock, which accounted for 14.2 percent of the total agricultural production, posted a -23.2 percent decrease in production.
Two-digit declines in production were particularly registered for hogs at -25.8 percent and cattle at -10.2 percent.
Contractions in production were also posted for carabao by -7.4 percent, goat by -6.7 percent, and dairy by -1.5 percent.
At current prices, the value of livestock production amounted to P82.1 billion, which was 10.8 percent higher than the previous year’s level.
Poultry production also dropped by -7.4 percent. It contributed 13.3 percent to the total agricultural production in the first quarter of 2021.
Duck and chicken recorded reductions in production by -11.6 percent and -11.2 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, growths in production were registered for chicken eggs by 3.0 percent and duck eggs by 0.7 percent.
At current prices, the value of poultry production at P69.1 billion indicated a 10.6 percent expansion compared to the previous year’s record.
Meanwhile, crop production, which shared 58.8 percent of the total agricultural production, went up by 3.3 percent. Increases in production were registered for palay at 8.6 percent and corn at 6.5 percent.
At current prices, the value of crop production amounted to P267.0 billion, up by 7.2 percent this quarter.
Fisheries production, which shared 13.7 percent in the total agricultural production, likewise inched up by 0.6 percent this quarter.
At current prices, the value of fisheries production amounted to P66.6 billion represented a 6.4 percent increase this quarter.
Moving forward, Dar said the DA will continue to implement its ‘Plant, Plant, Plant program’ that is mainly focused on increasing our basic food commodities like, rice, corn, vegetables, livestock, poultry, and fisheries.
Last year, the country’s total farm output went down by 1.2 percent in 2020, from a growth of 0.7 percent in 2019, after crops, livestock, poultry, and fisheries all recorded lower production, earlier data from PSA showed.
In the fourth quarter of last year alone, production fell by 3.8 percent, which is higher compared to the level of the decline of 0.1 percent in agricultural production during the same period in 2019.
On Monday, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) President Danilo V. Fausto said that regardless of the agriculture sector’s performance during the last quarter, it is obvious that food production has not been DA’s priority over the last few months.
“The government favors more on the consumers’ side rather than on agriculture production, which I think over the long run will perpetuate our dependence on imports,” Fausto told Business Bulletin.
He also said that it is “dangerously wrong policy to leave our food security at the hands of imports rather than make a sincere and focus effort to increase our agricultural productivity and efficiency from our expanding poor rural communities”.