PH farm output drops in Q2 amid El Niño

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 7) — The local agriculture sector churned out fewer products in the second quarter as irrigation systems ran dry, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.

Farm output declined by 1.27 percent from April-June, reversing the 0.67 growth logged in the first quarter and the 0.12 percent increase in production logged during the same period in 2018. Total value stood at ₱424.6 billion, 5.2 percent lower than last year.

The production drop was due to a 5.7 percent reduction in crop harvests, which accounted for nearly half of total industry output.

Crops

Palay (rice paddy) production went down by 5.82 percent, while corn saw harvests slide by 8.73 percent year-on-year.

"There were reductions in the harvested areas in MIMAROPA Region, Bicol Region and Western Visayas due to inadequate

water supply or rainfall during the planting months in the first quarter of 2019," the PSA said in a report released Wednesday, noting that harvestable palay was "adversely affected" by the dry spell that hit rice-rich provinces.

However, rice prices plunged by 18.22 percent from a year ago, as poor grain quality drove market rates down. The PSA added that the presence of "low-priced imported rice in the market," which was the result of the rice tarriffication law that took effect in March, also pulled down farmgate prices.

Meanwhile, increased output was seen for onion, garlic, mango, tobacco, rubber, eggplant, pineapple and abaca, the PSA said. Total crops produced during the period were valued at ₱215.5 billion, down 11 percent from the previous year.

Water supply for farm irrigation has been reduced as dams continued to dry up due to the drought.

DA: Agricultural losses due to El Niño hit ₱5.7-B

Insufficient water supply coupled with extreme heat also drove down production of coconuts, the agency added. The same weather conditions also led to smaller sugarcane, as well as the "lower quality" of fruits harvested, particularly in SOCCSKSARGEN. On the other hand, the sunny weather allowed mango production to increase by 5.37 percent.

Coffee production also contracted by 6.32 percent. On the other hand, tobacco enjoyed a 4.3 percent pickup during the quarter as some plots of land in Cagayan Valley have been converted to leaf plantations.

Fresh produce

Livestock inched up by 3.22 percent, led by hog and dairy products, valued at ₱77.7 billion. Poultry production in the market likewise grew by 4.14 percent, although its value slipped to ₱56.7 billion.

The country's fisheries haul likewise grew by 1.9 percent, led by abundant catch of yellowfin tuna, roundscad, tiger prawn and tilapia. This segment is valued at ₱74.7 billion, which rose by nearly a tenth from the prior year.

For the first semester, overall agricultural output dropped by 0.24 percent.

Growth slump

Sought for comment, an analyst said agriculture could remain a drag to overall economic growth, which will remain driven by the industrial and service sectors. He added that the outlook remains bleak for agriculture.

"With the weather disturbances anticipated in the second half, a rebound may be farfetched at this point," said Ruben Carlo Asuncion, chief economist at Union Bank of the Philippines. "Government should continue to ramp up programs addressing and helping improve agriculture production in the long-run."

READ: Growth could remain below 6% in Q2 – analysts

President Rodrigo Duterte's economic managers have lamented the laggard agriculture sector, saying that it should keep growing to at least match yearly population growth to ensure ample food supply for Filipinos.

Duterte has appointed William Dar as the new secretary of the Department of Agriculture on Monday, replacing Emmanuel Piñol whose term was marked by a rice supply shortage last year.

In a media briefing on Tuesday, Dar said he wants to raise food production by 3-4 percent in three years and double the income of farmers and fisherfolk within five years.