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Wilting agriculture?

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority shows that country’s agricultural production suffered a slight contraction in the first three months of the year, as significant strides made by the poultry industry still failed to boost agricultural output.

The PSA said that agricultural production in the first quarter dropped by 0.3 percent compared to the 3.4 percent decrease during the same period a year ago. This brings the value of agriculture to P498.61 billion, up by 2.1 percent from P488.32 billion year-on-year.

Except for poultry, all subsectors incurred single digit declines, with fisheries posting the highest contraction of 5.8 percent. Crops slipped by 1.6 percent as it reeled from the spiraling prices of fuel and fertilizers and aggravated by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“This could be the initial effects of high fertilizer and production costs, as farmers cut down on input usage which lead to lower yield,” said Federation of Free Farmers national manager Raul Montemayor.

The Department of Agriculture said it has amassed P4 billion to provide fertilizer subsidies to farmers for wet season planting even as it lobbies for additional budgetary support of P6 billion for this initiative. Agriculture Secretary William Dar hopes the second quarter will be better for the rice industry as that will be when the additional outputs are expected.

The livestock sector declined by 1 percent, as hog raisers remain pessimistic about rebuilding their stocks despite DA efforts to boost inventories. Only the poultry subsector grew by 12.3 percent during the period.

The steady decline of the agriculture sector, despite its supposed immunity from the COVID-19 pandemic, should be a top priority for the incoming administration. In a country like the Philippines, agriculture cannot be allowed to deteriorate, but with an administration that made a campaign promise to lower the price of rice to P20 per kilo, it may need the nation’s best minds to manage this sector so it can sustainably feed the people while at the same time improve the productivity and lives of farmers and fishermen.*

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