Amid COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and lack of support in the livestock sector, which contributes more than 14 percent to the Philippines’ total farm output, it is unlikely for the agriculture sector to recover soon and achieve the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) growth target by the end of this year.
“With the MECQ [modified enhanced community quarantine], which continue to affect demand for pork and chicken and challenges in the supply chain, it will be wishful thinking to achieve the target of DA of an annual growth of 2.5 percent for the whole year,” Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) President Danilo V. Fausto told Business Bulletin.
He also said that with DA only allotting 3.6 percent of its total budget to livestock and poultry, “we can only expect a continuing decline in growth for the agriculture sector pulled down by the livestock and poultry sector.”
For instance, he noted, the country’s farm output which declined by 3.3 percent in the first three months of 2021, a bigger decline compared to a drop of 1.7 percent drop during the same period last year, according the Philippine Statistics Authority. The decline was largely attributed to the lower output recorded in livestock and poultry.
Fausto said that during the period, the decline in both hog and poultry was aggravated by the lack of incentives for producers who will continue to raise hogs despite the prevalence of ASF and the government’s decision to allow the entry of more imported pork into the country as part of the measures to bring down meat prices.
“Focusing on the consumer side rather than on production is the wrong policy which will hurt our agriculture sector over the long run,” Fausto said.
Then there’s also the unsystematic control of ASF by the government and unclear biosecurity measures being implemented by DA, including first border control for imported meat, Fausto added.
“Local production will not be able to compete because of the high cost of inputs compared to the subsidized inputs of imported meat from their country of origin. [This is] aggravated by the lowering of tariff that further widened the margins of meat importers,” Fausto said.
“It is also anticipated that unless price control measures be implemented to imported meat, the importer will surely take advantage of the margins from the very low landed cost of imported meat and will not likely to pass on the low imported prices of pork to the consumers,” he added.
Meanwhile, Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) Director Glenn B. Gregorio said that as threats like the COVID-19 pandemic and a string of zoonotic diseases persist, there should be a more comprehensive evaluation using One Health/EcoHealth framework to operationalize how the livestock and poultry sector could achieve its triple bottom line: profit, people, and planet.
“Specifically, support is needed for improved access to better surveillance system, integrated biosecurity measures, and technology-based operation system (i.e., tunnel-vent technology), among others,” Gregorio said.
“To further induce this, we call on the consumers to be more aware and supportive to livestock and poultry products that observed higher quality standards,” he added.