Janina C. Lim (Business World)
The Agriculture department hopes to see some recovery in farm production when the government reports official data on May 15.
“I wouldn’t be very optimistic,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters on Monday at the department’s headquarters in Quezon City when asked for the target for this quarter.
“[M]asaya na ako pag may (I will be happy with) two percent… growth.”
Mr. Piñol’s projection, should it be achieved, would be a turnaround from the 4.53% and 1.11% contractions recorded in last year’s first and fourth quarters, respectively, due to adverse climate: drought due to El Niño in 2016’s first three months and storms in October-December.
It also compares with the 2.5-3.5% yearly average targeted under the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 approved last Feb. 20 and which Mr. Piñol said would be achievable.
“Huwag lang tayo tamaan ng bagyo. Alam mo naman ang (This should be doable as long as we are spared of storms. You know) climate change: you cannot predict anything.”
Mr. Piñol said this quarter may still bear the impact of damage from Typhoon Niña, known internationally as (Nock-ten), that hit the country in Christmas week.
The crops subsector, which usually accounts for half of agricultural production, is expected to boost the entire farm sector this quarter.
“[We’re] expecting there will be greater productivity, especially starting March,” said Mr. Piñol, explaining that his department “will already be releasing our survival and recovery loans to victims of Typhoon Niña.”
Guian Angelo S. Dumalagan, a market economist of the Land Bank of the Philippines, said Mr. Piñol’s first-quarter target should be achievable with the sector coming from a low base last year.
“The first quarter of last year was a low base because of El Niño. With relatively good weather conditions so far this quarter, I think agri output could pick up to a level higher than the past year’s performance,” Mr. Dumalagan said in a mobile phone message on Tuesday.
Alvin P. Ang, economist at the Ateneo de Manila University, said separately that he expects a more muted one-percent growth in agricultural production for this quarter.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported last Jan. 20 that it expects production of palay and corn — which took a beating last year, first from drought in the first half and then from storms — to recover this semester on an increase in harvest area and yield.
Palay — or unmilled rice — contributed about a fourth to total value of farm output last year, while corn accounted for four percent. Both staple grains are the biggest components of the crop sector that accounted for half of total value of agricultural production last year.
PSA reported that last year saw production of palay drop by 2.88% annually in volume to 17.627 million metric tons (MT), while that of corn fell by 3.99% to 7.219 million MT.
The January issue of PSA’s Rice and Corn Situation and Outlook report showed that palay will likely increase by 15.22% to 4.53 million MT this quarter from 3.93 million MT in 2016’s comparable three months, leading to a 8.54 million MT “probable production” this semester that, if achieved, will be 11.68% more than the 7.65 million MT actually harvested in 2016’s comparable six months.
PSA similarly sees corn production surging by 24.98% to 2.4 million MT this quarter from a year-ago actual 1.92 million MT, leading to a 3.67 million MT output this semester that, if realized, will be 29.92% more than the 2.83 million MT actually harvested in 2016’s comparable six months.