The agriculture sector slowed much more than expected last year, a Cabinet official said on Thursday, with the result attributed to severe typhoons that caused billions of pesos in farm damage.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the sector expanded by just 1 percent in 2018 based on preliminary data, well below the projected easing to 2.5 percent from the previous year’s nearly 4-percent expansion.
Official figures, including overall gross domestic product growth results, will be released by the government before the end of the month. As of the end of the third quarter, agriculture growth was nearly flat at 0.15 percent based on latest data.
Piñol attributed the 2018 slowdown to storms that hit the country, most especially super typhoon Ompong that caused more than P36 billion worth of damage to the farm sector in September.
“A super typhoon and 12 more tropical storms battered the country almost every month of the year, destroying 1.8 million metric tons of crops with an estimated value of P36 billion,” he said.
Rice production fell below the Agriculture department’s 19.4-million metric ton (MT) goal, totaling 19.1 million MT given an output loss of around 900,000 MT valued at P20.7 billion.
“While the 2018 rice production was higher by 1.5 million metric tons than the 17.6-million MT production of the Aquino administration in 2016, it was 170,000 metric tons lower than the 2017 production,” Piñol claimed.
It should be noted that the Duterte government assumed office in the middle of 2016.
The corn sector likewise lost about P10 billion worth of production last year, Piñol also said without elaborating.
The Agriculture department, he claimed, would focus developing alternative production under the “Southern Swing” initiative, which will identify an estimated 300,000 hectares of new farm areas in regions least affected by typhoons.
In a recent meeting, the department also identified areas of focus for agricultural funding this year. These include completion of a 13,000-kilometer farm-to-market road network, intensification of the Solar-Powered Irrigation System project to cover 500,000 hectares over the next three years, and the establishment of fisheries and agriculture post-harvest facilities to enhance productivity and lessen losses.
Also to be prioritized are investments in logistics and transport facilities to ease the movement of agricultural products from remote regions to urban centers.
To alleviate rural poverty, meanwhile, Piñol said more funding would be allotted to the Agriculture department’s easy access credit program.