SEARCA’s Outlook for the Philippine Agriculture Sector in Second Half of 2021

  • 30 July 2021, Friday

Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio
Director and CEO
Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA)

By all indications, the performance of the Philippine agriculture sector in the first half of 2021 points to a high probability of maintained positive growth over the rest of the year. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have noted with keen interest how the agriculture sector has managed to achieve a positive growth rate. However, the challenge of surpassing a 2% growth rate of the volume of agriculture production may possibly remain very elusive given the number of systemic challenges besetting the agriculture of the country. Overall, what remains is the need to accelerate the transformation of the sector into a dynamic and highly productive sector through long-term institutional and programmatic innovative interventions to make the agricultural food system responsive to food security and poverty reduction targets. 

Looking into the macro-level indicators, it is clear that the Philippine government performed fairly well given the peculiar challenges brought about by the pandemic and natural hazards. The positive growth of the sector during the past years is surely a noteworthy achievement. Productivity indicators could have significantly plunged if no necessary and immediate interventions in response to the pandemic were put in place.

However, the long years of concern on the need to increase the Gross Value Added (GVA) of the agriculture sector and the country’s overall development remains. While we celebrate the success of the Philippine government in implementing programs and projects to help boost the agriculture sector of the country, what we need is a more science-based and forward-looking structure, institutional, and operational reforms in the agriculture sector that must be sustained across different administrations. In the second half of 2021, what is crucial are sustained mechanisms to reinforce a number of its institutional and policy reforms. Foremost of which is the strong political will being shown when the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) that would have wide-ranging effects in the utilization of market-oriented policies in the sector in the coming years.  

FISHERY SECTOR SHOWS PROMISE BUT MORE INTEGRATED INFRASTRUCTURE SUPPORT IS NEEDED. The positive growth in the fishery sector could be further maximized with improved logistics and transport system to increase competitiveness. For years, the Philippines would benefit from sustained investments on integrated infrastructure system that lowers production and transportation costs across the different supply chains related to the fisheries management areas (FMAs) in the country. Of urgent concern is the need to enjoin private sector’s investment in cold storage facilities where various technological adaptations may be applied given that various designs have been made by more advanced countries on this aspect. This is priority given that the fishing communities remain to be among the impoverished sectors in the country. 

AS NATURAL HAZARDS AND OTHER DISRUPTIONS ARE BECOMING COMMONPLACE, THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR NEEDS TO TRANSFORM AS RESILIENT SYSTEMS. Given the significant impact of typhoons and floods to the crop sector as experienced in 2020 or even in the years prior, agricultural farming systems must be resilient. This clearly requires increased percentage of Filipino farmers having internalized a decision-support system that would make them more agile and effective in responding to natural hazards and other potential external disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic. These include improved access to climatic and weather data, stress-tolerant crop varieties, good agricultural practices, crop insurance system, extension system and modern technological support, and innovative financial capital. 

LIVESTOCK AND POULTRY SECTORS NEED SYSTEMIC, LONG-TERM INTERVENTIONS TO MAKE IT SUSTAINABLE. As threats like the COVID-19 pandemic and a string of zoonotic diseases remain, comprehensive evaluation using One Health/EcoHealth framework is needed to operationalize how the livestock and poultry sector could achieve its triple bottom line of profit, people, and planet. Specifically, support is needed for improved access to better surveillance system, integrated biosecurity measures, and technology-based operation system. Consumers are likewise enjoined to be more aware and supportive of livestock and poultry products that conform with higher quality standards. 

MORE SUSTAINED SUPPORT FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROVINCE-LED AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES EXTENSION SYSTEMS (PAFES). In light of the Mandanas Ruling, there is a need for an expedited increase of the capacity of the local government units (LGUs) to implement agricultural development programs that must be technically sound and with high-level of social acceptance and participation. Hence, a more sustained support for the implementation of PAFES is needed to empower our LGUs.