2018 PHL farm growth, stunted by typhoons, hits only 0.56%

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Farmer Josephine Dayag shows her corn plantation damaged by super typhoon Mangkhut in Solana, Cagayan (PHOTO: Richard Atrero de Guzman / Greenpeace handout)

TYPHOONS, including a super typhoon, made farm production difficult in 2018, causing full-year expansion of the sector to settle at 0.56 percent, lower than the 4 percent recorded in 2017, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said the 1.80-percent growth recorded by the sector in the fourth quarter was not enough to boost growth figures for 2018. The Department of Agriculture (DA) earlier estimated that agriculture production last year grew by 1 percent, lower than its target of 2.5 percent.

“We were able to recover in the last quarter but it was not enough to make things prettier as we expected it would be. Obviously, it was a challenging year for Philippine agriculture,” Piñol told reporters in an interview on Wednesday.

“We attribute that to the almost monthly tropical disturbances and typhoons, punctuated by Super-typhoon Ompong, which really affected agriculture production,” he added.

In its quarterly report published on Wednesday, the PSA noted that the crops subsector production in 2018, which contributes about half of the total output, declined by nearly 1 percent due to the series of typhoons that battered the country.

Total palay output last year fell by 1.09 percent to 19.066 million metric tons, from 19.276 MMT recorded in 2017. Rice production in the fourth quarter alone declined by 2.20 percent to 7.156 MMT, from 7.317 MMT in the same period of 2017, according to the PSA.

“This was attributed to the reduction in area harvested brought by the effects of Habagat in Ilocos region and Central Luzon, and the damages caused by typhoons Henry, Inday, Josie, Luis, Ompong and Rosita in Northern Luzon,” it added.

Filipino farmers lost 1.8 MMT of crops valued at P36 billion last year due to 13 tropical storms, according to the DA’s assessment. Production losses caused by Ompong, which battered Northern Luzon farms in September, reached around P27 billion. The figure was largest since Supertyphoon Yolanda wrought havoc in Philippine farms in 2013.

Data from the PSA also indicated that 11 more crops, including corn and some high-value crops, recorded production declines. The PSA attributed this to the reduction in harvest area and unfavorable weather conditions.

The fisheries subsector failed to recover last year as output declined by 1.14 percent, according to the PSA. Fisheries production in 2017 fell by 1.68 percent.

The PSA also reported that the livestock and poultry subsectors expanded by 1.89 percent and 5.75 percent, respectively. The DA earlier said it missed its production targets, except for poultry.

Rebound

Despite the lackluster performance of the sector last year, Piñol said Philippine agriculture will rebound this year with the expected rollout of the P10-billion
Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) and the availability of the coconut-levy fund.

The DA is aiming to expand farm output by at least 3.5 percent this year. The crops subsector is expected to remain as the main growth driver.

For rice alone, the DA is targeting to produce 20 MMT, 5 percent higher than the 19.066 MMT recorded last year.

“For 2019, our early projections indicate that we will have a better year, especially for crops. I have made rounds in the country and reports given to me by field officers indicated that our rice crops are standing very well,” Piñol said.

“So far we do not have any serious tropical or climatic problems and there is no report of diseases. We are banking so much on the RCEF and the release of coco-levy funds for agriculture to be able to bounce back in 2019,” he added.