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Agriculture woes

The country’s agriculture output dropped further, contracting by a hefty 2.6 percent in the third quarter of the year, mainly due to the significant decline in the production of the livestock sector that is still suffering from the lingering effects of the African swine fever outbreak.

The steady drop in agriculture further dims chances that the Department of Agriculture will hit its already adjusted target to grow the essential sector by at least 2 percent in 2021.

The agriculture sector already shrank by 3.3 percent during the first quarter and by 1.5 percent in the second quarter, equivalent to a 2.5 percent contraction for the first nine months of the year.

Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority report, livestock output shrank by a whopping 15.2 percent in the third quarter, largely due to ASF which somehow remains uncontrolled. Only the poultry industry yielded gains during the period, buoyed by the continuous increase in the production of eggs.

Crops, which account for 54 percent of the country’s entire farm output, slightly dipped by 0.2 percent due to the onslaught of Typhoon “Jolina” in September. One outlier is the sugarcane output which skyrocketed by 110.8 percent.

ING Bank economist Nicolas Mapa said the underperformance of the agriculture sector might be reflected in the overall economic performance of the country. “The negative farm output will likely weigh on overall Q3 GDP, which we expect to have grown by 3.9 percent year-on-year and 0.7 percent quarter-on-quarter,” he added.

As a sector that was identified from the outset as among the more pandemic-resistant ones, the country’s agricultural output shouldn’t be contracting as badly as it has been while the rest of the country has been struggling with the crippling effects of COVID-19. Protecting and nurturing the agriculture sector while the pandemic raged throughout the country might’ve remained a formidable challenge, but it had natural advantages that could’ve made it the more pandemic-proof than most other industries and sectors.

The pandemic has provided many excuses for poor performance among the various government agencies tasked with keeping the country afloat. The agriculture sector was expected to do better. Its poor performance is a reflection of how badly the country is struggling with the pandemic.

What will it take for the country to do better and finally achieve the recovery that the rest of the world is already enjoying?*

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