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Growing agriculture

Following a three percent decline in the first quarter caused by the reduction in the production of livestock and poultry sectors outweighing gains made in crops and fisheries, the Department of Agriculture has lowered its growth projection for the industry to two percent this year from its original target of 2.5 percent.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar noted that while the challenges of the still-ongoing pandemic and African swine fever continue to hound the industry, the strong performance of other sectors such as palay or unhusked rice give hope that the adjusted target is achievable.

For this year, the DA is targeting to achieve record production of palay of 20.4 million metric tons compared to last year’s 19.4 million MT which resulted in a rice self-sufficiency of 90 percent. The country is currently on track to meet that target given the 6 percent growth in palay production in the first half of the year.

Dar also stressed that government is prioritizing its swine repopulation efforts in and safeguard the hog population from ASF in a bid to replenish the country’s inventory that was greatly affected by ASF. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that hog production dropped 25.8 percent in the first quarter to 421,790 MT.

The PSA also reported that agriculture remained the lowest contributor to the country’s gross domestic product in 2020 among the three major industries.

While the Southeast Asian Regional center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture believes that the 2 percent growth target remains elusive, it sees a high probability of the industry attaining positive growth over the rest of the year. SEARCA director Glen Gregorio urged the sector to transform into a dynamic and highly productive one through long-term institutional and programmatic innovative interventions to make the agricultural food system responsive to food security and poverty reduction targets.

Growing the agriculture sector remains a challenge but it should be a priority for a country that remains largely agricultural. The Agriculture Secretary who promised the golden age of agriculture may no longer be around, but the current one still has to lead the Department of Agriculture so it can the very least post growth this year and at best, achieve its already lowered goal of attaining 2 percent growth.*

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