PH agriculture in H1 of '21 points to positive growth

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna: The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) said the Philippine agriculture sector, by all indications, points to a high probability of maintaining positive growth over the rest of the year.

SEARCA said this is based on the performance in the first half of 2021.

"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," University of the Philippines Los Baños SEARCA Director Glenn Gregorio said in a statement.

Gregorio, however, added that the challenge of surpassing a two-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.

"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," he said.

By looking into the macro-level indicators, according to Gregorio, the Philippine government performed fairly well given the peculiar challenges brought about by the pandemic and natural hazards.

"The positive growth during the past years is surely a noteworthy achievement and if there were no necessary and immediate interventions in response to the pandemic, productivity indicators could have significantly plunged," he said.

But SEARCA noted that the long years of concern on the need to increase the gross value added of the agriculture sector and the country's overall development remains.

"While we celebrate the success of the 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," it said.

Gregorio said crucial in the second half of 2021 are sustained mechanisms to reinforce a number of the sector's institutional and policy reforms, mainly, the strong political will being shown when the Rice Tariffication Law was enacted.

In the fishery sector, SEARCA noted that although it shows promise, it needed more integrated infrastructure support and that positive growth could be further maximized with improved logistics and transport systems to increase competitiveness.

"Of urgent concern is the need to enjoin the 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 a priority given that the fishing communities remain to be among the impoverished sectors in the country," Gregorio said.

SEARCA said the significant impact of typhoons and floods on the crop sector as experienced in 2020 and prior years calls for resilient agricultural farming systems that require 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.

Gregorio said 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.

SEARCA said the livestock and poultry sector needs systemic, long-term interventions to make it sustainable amid threats like Covid-19 and a string of zoonotic diseases.

Gregorio said comprehensive evaluation using One Health/EcoHealth framework is needed to operationalize how the livestock and poultry sector could achieve its triple bottomline of profit, people and planet.

He added that support is needed for improved access to better surveillance systems, integrated biosecurity measures and technology-based operation systems. Consumers are also enjoined to be more aware and supportive of livestock and poultry products that conform with higher quality standards.

SEARCA also noted that more sustained support for the implementation of the province-led agriculture and fisheries extension systems is also needed to empower local government units (LGUs).

Citing the Mandanas ruling, Gregorio said there is a need for an expedited increase of the capacity of the LGUs to implement agricultural development programs that must be technically sound and with high-level of social acceptance and participation.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture said it remains hopeful the country's farm and fisheries sector will grow by 2.5 percent despite possible losses from another episode of lockdowns.