PH farm sector could see positive 2021 – SEARCA

Agriculture growth could end up positive by the end of the year but will unlikely top two percent, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) recently said.

"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," Searca Director Glenn Gregorio said in a July 31, 2021 statement.

Second quarter data is scheduled to be released by the Philippine Statistics Authority on Monday. August 9.

"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."

Following a negative start to 2020, agriculture posted growth upticks in the second and third quarters. A 3.8-percent slump in the final three months, however, led to full-year contraction of 1.2 percent.

The decline continued in the first quarter of 2021 with production, at constant 2018 prices, dropping 3.3 percent.

Measured at current prices, however, agriculture output has been positive over the past year, up 5 percent for the first quarter.

"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," Gregorio said.

While the government had performed "fairly well" amid challenges posed by Covid-19 and natural disasters, he said "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," Gregorio added.

With regard to fisheries, the Searca chief said the sector showed "promise but more integrated infrastructure support is needed." Among others, he said the private sector should be enjoined to increase investments in cold storage facilities.

With natural disasters becoming more commonplace, Gregorio also said that agriculture resiliency needed to improve, requiring, among others, "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."

Systemic and long-term interventions, meanwhile, are needed to make the livestock and poultry sub-sectors sustainable, he continued.

"Specifically, support is needed for improved access to better surveillance system[s], integrated biosecurity measures, and technology-based operation system[s]. Consumers are likewise enjoined to be more aware and supportive of livestock and poultry products that conform with higher quality standards," Gregorio said,

Lastly, he urged continued support for the implementation of province-led agriculture and fisheries extension systems (PAFES) via raising the capacity of local government units to undertake agricultural development programs.