Agri sector unlikely to surpass 2% growth target

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and existing “systemic challenges” in the sector, the Philippine agriculture is less likely to surpass the production growth level of 2 percent by the end of the year.

Glenn B. Gregorio, director of Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), said that the country’s agriculture sector is poised to attain positive growth towards the end of the year, but it will not be as impressive as the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) target. 

“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,” Gregorio said.  

“However, the challenge of surpassing a 2 percent 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,” he added.

In 2020, the country’s total farm output went down by 1.2 percent, from a growth of 0.7 percent in 2019, after crops, livestock, poultry, and fisheries all recorded lower production, earlier data from Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.

The sector proceeded to register another poor performance during the first three months of the year, falling further by 3.3 percent from the decline of only 1.7 percent during the same period last year.

At the time, Dar has remained optimistic that a growth of 2.5 percent can still be achieved for the sector by the end of this year.

Gregorio, for his part, said long-term institutional and programmatic innovative interventions are needed 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,” Gregorio said.

“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,” he added.

For the second half of this year, he said, “what is crucial are sustained mechanisms to reinforce a number of its institutional and policy reforms”.

Given the significant impact of typhoons and floods on the crop sector as experienced in 2020 or even in the years prior, agricultural farming systems must be resilient, he said.

Gregorio said this clearly requires an 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 efforts must 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.