Slower demand for the country’s farm products caused earnings from agricultural exports to drop by 9.14 percent on year to $1.155 billion in the first quarter, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) reported.
In its “Updates on Agricultural Trade Performance”, the BAS said total earnings from the top 10 farm exports in January to March declined by 14.05 percent on year to $819.84 million. Earnings from the top 10 farm exports in the same period last year were pegged at $953.83 million.
Shipments of coconut oil, seaweed and carageenan, and milk and cream also registered declines in terms of export earnings for the period.
Earnings from shipments of centrifugal sugar increased by 136.31 percent on year to $40.35 million. Other items in the top 10 farm-export commodities that posted gains were pineapple and pineapple products, tuna, tobacco, desiccated tuna and fresh bananas.
The country’s agricultural imports in January to March, meanwhile, increased by 4.77 percent on year to $1.86 billion, the BAS said.
The BAS, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), said agricultural trade deficit went up to $709.97 million, almost 40 percent higher than the $508.84 million registered in the same period last year.
The biggest deficit during the quarter, the BAS noted, was posted in February at $264.2 million.
The Philippines enjoyed a trade surplus of $139.1 million with Japan and $70.57 million with the European Union.
In contrast, trade deficits with Australia grew to $181.27 million, from $115.49 million; and $319.92 million, from $231.27 million with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
The BAS also noted that the country’s expenditures for the 10 major agricultural imports amounted to $873.89 million or 6 percent higher than last year’s $824.4 million.
Wheat and Meslin flour, milk and cream products, soybean meal and rice were the top import commodities during the first quarter of the year.
Meanwhile, the administration has proposed funding increases for agricultural programs in next year’s budget in a move to boost crop production, meet domestic food requirements and improve access to affordable staples by end of 2013.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the Department of Agriculture (DA) would receive P73.6 billion under the proposed 2013 budget that it submitted to Congress, some 20 percent higher than the DA’s total allocation for the current year.
“With heftier budgetary support, the DA is better-positioned to bridge the domestic supply with the growing demand for food, especially for rice, corn, fish, and coconut,” Abad said.
The DA’s increased budget will also go toward fixing irrigation systems, providing access to credit and safety nets and investing in farm-to-market roads and post-harvest technologies.
Of the total funds for the DA, some P15.3 billion has been earmarked for the agency’s main agricultural programs, while P7.5 billion will be used to support the National Rice Program’s targeted output of 20 million metric tons.
Also, P1.5 billion will be given to the National Corn Program for the harvest of 8.4 million metric tons for 2013.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will receive P4.6 billion for the protection of fishery resources to yield 5.4 million metric tons of fish, while the Philippine Coconut Authority will get a P1.7- billion allocation to help it reach its yield target of 3.13 million metric tons.
“The budget increases for DA—together with the administration’s focus on our grain and crop programs—should help the agency meet the targets set for it next year, as well as enable the administration to combat hunger and poverty in the long term,” Abad said.
He added that the 2013 budget would also account for infrastructure support for agriculture projects. The National Irrigation Authority will receive P27.3 billion to generate 61,215 hectares of irrigation systems, restore 42,219 hectares of service areas and some rehabilitate 112,699 hectares of now-defunct irrigation channels for future restoration.
Meanwhile, a total of P7 billion will be channeled to 750 kilometers of farm-to-market roads that will link production communities with trading posts for faster trade and speedier investment returns to farmers and fishermen.
A proposed an allocation of P4.25 billion for the National Food Authority for the procurement of 250,000 metric tons of palay, a move to shield farmers from price fluctuations in the world market and serve as a contingent supply.
Crop insurance will also be set-aside for 251,762 farmers via a P1.1-billion allocation to the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp.
The administration is also allotting a P1 billion under the Agricultural Credit Policy Council, which oversees the Agro-Industry Modernization Credit and Financing Program and the Cooperative Banks Agri-Lending Program, among other safety net programs.
(With VG Cabuag)