PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS
PHILIPPINE agriculture output grew less than a percent in 2019, failing to meet the government’s target as the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak dragged the livestock sector.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Wednesday that agriculture output, which contributes about a tenth to gross domestic product (GDP) and a fourth of the country’s jobs, inched up by 0.4% in the fourth quarter, compared to the upward-revised year-ago growth at 1.9%, and the third quarter’s growth of 2.85%.
The fourth quarter figure is way below the Agriculture department’s projection of between 2.5% to 3% growth.
For the full-year, farm output rose by 0.70%, slightly higher than the 0.59% in 2018. However, this was lower than the 2.5-3.5% target range for farm output growth under the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan.
“In the last quarter of 2019, the country was badly affected by the ASF, which continues up to this day. On top of that, we were disturbed by natural disasters such as powerful typhoons, Tisoy and Ursula,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said in a text message.
Livestock, which accounted for 16.2% of total output, declined by 8.5% during the fourth quarter, as demand slumped due to the ASF outbreak.
Hogs production fell 9.8% to 597,500 metric tons (MT) during the October to December period, which the PSA attributed to “non-replacement of stocks and continuous reduction in the inventory of swine in Central Luzon.”
Demand for pork also dropped in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon). The monitoring of the movement of hogs in the country also led to lesser disposal of hogs in Cagayan Valley, Central Visayas, and Central Luzon.
For the full year, livestock output fell 1%, led by carabao production which slipped 1.7%.
According to the report submitted by the Philippines to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the ASF outbreak in the country started on July 25, 2019. Data from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) showed that as of Dec. 15, 2019, the number of pigs culled reached 147,334, of which 18% or 26,077 were found to have been infected by the virus.
Total barangays affected by ASF totaled 612 from the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Tarlac, Rizal, Cavite, Pangasinan, and in Metro Manila.
CROPSCrops, which accounted for half of total output during the fourth quarter, went up by 1%. Year on year, crops value increased 1% to P115.764 billion.
For the full year, crops output fell 0.8% versus 1% decline in 2018.
Broken down, palay production grew 4.7% to 7.494 million metric tons (MT) during the fourth quarter, with increased harvested and planted area reported in Cagayan Valley and Western Visayas “due to sufficient water supply.”
“In addition, there was more usage of high-yielding variety seeds coupled with good weather conditions during the cropping period in these regions,” PSA said.
However, palay production for the full year declined 1.3%.
Corn production slid 8.2% to 1.658 million MT during the fourth quarter due to reduced harvested areas in Cagayan Valley and Zamboanga Peninsula as farmers were discouraged to plant corn due to low buying prices. Despite the three-month slump, full-year corn production rose 2.7%.
Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) Research Fellow Roehlano M. Briones noted the positive performance of palay, or unmilled rice, production.
“Despite the problem in the palay industry, at least the crop sector as a whole was positive,” Mr. Briones said in a phone interview.
Farmgate prices dropped by an average of 5.7% in the fourth quarter, as crops saw an average 11% decline in prices. Palay prices slumped 25% “due to the effect of lower buying price offered by local buyers and traders, presence of imported rice and higher volume of production,” the PSA said.
University of the Philippine School of Economics Professor Ramon L. Clarete said the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law led to the decline of the price of the staple food.
Meanwhile, poultry production, which accounts for 17% of total agricultural output, saw a 5.4% growth in the fourth quarter. This brought the full-year print to 5.8%, thanks to increased demand for chicken meat, amid the ASF outbreak.
Fisheries production grew by 3.4% in the October to December period, bringing the full-year figure to 1.9%. — VMPG