Andrea Lim | Reporter
The Department of Agriculture (DA) announced that the country’s agriculture industry is on its way to a sustained recovery after last year’s series of calamities as it claimed an 11.26% growth in terms of value and a 1.81% growth in terms of volume for the first half of 2014.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said that the farming and fishing industry grossed P776.5 billion at current prices, as compared to P697.9 billion posted a year ago, adding that prices received by farmers and fishers went up by an average of 9.28%.
Rice, corn and sugarcane recovered from last year’s slump, boosting overall value of crops by 18.31% in terms of value, and 3.36% in terms of volume. Crops account for half of the total agricultural production.
The DA said that rice harvests reached 8.38 metric tons, 4.78% higher than last year’s 7.99 million metric tons.
The growth was due to the increase in the harvest area and yield in the Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Socskargen.
The PSA also noted the presence of better irrigation services along with higher prices of rich which encouraged farmers to plant more, particularly in Ilocos and Central Luzon.
Likewise, corn productivity grew by 4.7%, from 3.32 million tons to 3.48 million tons, with increases recorded in Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Soccskargen. Value of corn harvests climbed to 9.17%, from P41.3 billion in January to June last year to P45.1 billion this 2014.
PSA said that corn farmers were able to recover from the 4.2% decline in their output in the same period last year, adding that more farmers were encouraged to plant due to high farmgate price as well as the DA’s implementation of early cropping for growers affected by weather disturbances that made available production assistance such as seeds and affordable loan packages.
Meanwhile, sugarcane production grew by 5.11% from 14.7 million tons in the first half of 2013 to 15.46 million tons for the same period this year, brought about by area expansion in Kalinga in the Cordilleras, Capiz and Cebu in the Visayas, and Sultan Kudarat in southwestern Mindanao.
Other crops which also improved output include mango (9.97%), cassava (10.04%), tomato (4.39%), cabbage (1.41%) and eggplant (1.94%).
On the other hand, coconut production is still declining as the industry struggles to recover from the onslaught of scale insect infestation in Quezon, Batangas, Laguna and Cavite, and from the damage inflicted by typhoon Glenda on plantations in Eastern and Western Visayas.
However, the coconut industry still grew in terms of value by 42.65% (that is, P50.3 billion) due to higher prices.
The animal industry, composed of the livestock and poultry subsectors, likewise posted production growth, increasing by 0.94% and 0.73% respectively.
Livestock, boosted by the improved production of dairy and hog (3.23% and 1.02% respectively), grossed P118.9 billion at current prices. This is 6.33% bigger than the previous year’s value of P111.84 billion.
At the same time, poultry expanded due to increases in chicken (2.24%) and duck (.50%) production.
In contrast, output in the fisheries sector declined by almost 2% due to lower harvests of milkfish (-2.2%), roundscad (-1.36%), yellowfin tuna (-0.24%) and seaweed (-4.12%) due to devastation brought about by Typhoon Yolanda.
The typhoon hit key food-producing areas in the Eastern and Western Visayas in November last year, destroying numerous fish farms and fishing boats, which prevented thousands of fisherfolk to venture out to seas.
Rehabilitation efforts by the DA have since started, involving the distribution of sturdier fishing boats, as well as high-quality replacement seeds for rice and corn farmers, and restocking of animal and fish stocks with better health support as part of the government’s build-back better strategy.
Alcala said during the DA’s budget presentation before the House committee that the department proposed P51.7 billion budget for 2015 will be spent to carry out initiatives that are meant to sustain gains in staple food production and enhancing competitiveness of the Filipino agro-fishery products in the global arena.
Alcala explained that the financial programming for 2015 will focus on providing postharvest facilities and machineries such as rice threshers, combine harvesters and transplanters to help lower losses and production costs.
“These initiatives would enhance further the competitiveness of Filipino agri-fishery products for the benefit food producers and entrepreneurs, notably the smallholders,” he said.