The country's agriculture production could possibly contract by 1.21% in the first three months of 2021, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture has projected.
"This contraction could be expected as the agriculture sector bounces back after a series of typhoons and floods on top of the disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions," said SEARCA in a recent release.
Super Typhoon Rolly and typhoons Quinta and Ulysses ravaged parts of Luzon from October to November last year, leaving billions of pesos in damage to agriculture.
Prior to this, farmers and fisherfolk have already been suffering as lockdowns imposed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic effectively barred them from transporting their produce, to the extent that they were forced to dispose any unsold harvest.
The Agriculture Department has since instituted programs to assist food producers, particularly "Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita" which links them directly to buyers and facilitates the sale of major agricultural goods at much lower prices. The agency has also been providing farmers and fishers thousands of pesos each in cash and food assistance.
While the fishery sector is expected to grow by 3.05% in the first quarter of the year, the same cannot be said for crops, livestock and poultry, the Los Baños-based SEARCA said. It projects output declines of -1.17%, -6.33% and -3.99% for the said sectors, respectively.
With fisheries projected to log positive growth, SEARCA called for an improved logistics and transport system to make the sector even more competitive.
"The Philippines needs to invest on integrated infrastructure system that lowers production and transportation costs across the different supply chains," said the organization, which enjoined the private sector to also invest in cold-storage facilities, applying technological adaptations with respect to designs created by more advanced countries.
"We believe that this need is very urgent given that the fishing communities remain one of the impoverished sectors in the country," SEARCA stressed.
The research center also sought more resilient agricultural farming systems in light of the impact that typhoons and floods had on the crop sector not just in 2020 but in the years before as well.
"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," said SEARCA.
This may be done through better access to climate and weather data, stress-tolerant varieties of crops, good agricultural practices, a crop insurance system, extension system and modern technological support, along with innovative financial capital, it said.
Meanwhile, SEARCA called for support for improved access to a better surveillance system, integrated biosecurity measures and a technology-based operation system such as tunnel-vent technology to further strengthen livestock and poultry sectors in the long run.
This is in line with a more comprehensive evaluation utilizing the One Health/EcoHealth framework in order to operationalize how both sectors can achieve its "triple bottomline," namely profit, people and planet.
"To further induce this, we call on the consumers to be more aware and supportive of livestock and poultry products that manifest higher quality standards," the group added.
The Agriculture Department is eyeing a "conservative" 2.5% growth for the industry this 2021. It hopes to achieve this by further integrating technology in agriculture to improve production, connectivity and delivery of service to beneficiaries.
Apart from consecutive typhoons later in 2020, the agriculture industry also grappled with the eruption of Taal and the African swine fever's outbreak. The industry has recorded a 0.2% contraction in September following a 0.7% growth in the third quarter last year.