Agriculture posts surprise growth in Q3, but typhoons likely thwart recovery

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Ramon Royandoyan – Philstar.com

November 9, 2022 | 11:37

MANILA, Philippines — Agricultural production saw marginal gains in the third quarter, but a battery of typhoons in recent months could dampen production and economic growth.

Data released Wednesday by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed agricultural production, at constant 2018 prices, rose 1.8 percent year-on-year from July to September. This figure ended two consecutive quarters of contraction, bringing the average since the beginning of the year to 0.3%.

Historically, agriculture accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP and employs about a quarter of Filipino workers. But despite its important role in the economy, the agricultural sector has been left behind by other industries while agricultural workers live in abject poverty.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who has taken the agriculture portfolio, hopes the sector will finally perform well and contribute to economic growth. Its economic leaders rely on agriculture to grow”about 2-3%an ambition that analysts say may not be achievable for the government as severe typhoons batter the country each year while the Russian-Ukrainian war drives up fertilizer prices.

Leonardo Lanzona, an economist at Ateneo De Manila University, said the quarterly increase masks a problem the Marcos Jr. administration needs to address.

“This increase is not enough to cover the declines of the previous quarters. This also happened during much of the rice harvest period. Recent storms have caused enough damage to reduce growth in the coming months,” he said.

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“Let the LGUs develop agriculture”

Crop production, which accounts for more than half of agricultural production, rose 1.8% year-on-year in the third quarter. Palay (unhusked rice) and maize production managed to reduce growth rates by 1% and 2.5%, respectively, despite typhoons that hit parts of the country during the period.

Meanwhile, the fishing sub-sector has been reeling from another period of decline, with production falling 4.2% year-on-year. The data showed alarming double-digit annual declines for alimango (mud crab) (32.5%), alimasag (blue crab) (29.4%), alumahan (Indian mackerel) (20 .7%), sugpo (tiger prawn) (20.5%), tamban (Bali sardinella) (17.2%), lapu-lapu (grouper) (14.2%) and bangus (chané) ( 10.9%).

Similarly, tilapia, matangbaka (big-eyed scad), sapsap (slipmouth), galunggong (roundscad) and tulingan (frigat) saw their production decline by single digits in the third quarter.

The data also showed that animal production improved by 4% year-on-year. Pig production, which has struggled over the past two years due to the African swine fever outbreak, grew by 4.5% on an annual basis.

Poultry production increased by 6.4% year-on-year. Most poultry products recorded gains over the same period, with the exception of duck, which continued five consecutive quarters of declines at 12.1% year-on-year.

“There is a need for the government to allow local government units to decide how agriculture should develop,” Lanzona said.

“The decentralization of economic activities, including agriculture, to local government units should be applied in the light of the Mandana in power. Local officials should know what is good for their respective economies given their resources and the state of technology,” he added.

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