Lockdowns imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have adversely affected the country’s agricultural growth story in the first quarter of the year, casting uncertainty on the administration’s goal of an annual 2-percent growth for the sector.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported on Wednesday that agriculture declined by 1.2 percent, with losses recorded in fisheries and crops.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the decline in productivity was expected due to the impact of the Taal Volcano eruption in January, which destroyed several farm lands and fish cages.
There was also the implementation of closed fishing season in major fishing grounds around Panay Island, Sulu and Palawan—an initiative by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to allow several
fish variants to spawn and repopulate.
On top of that was the extended implementation of the enhanced community quarantine, which has affected every facet of the agricultural value chain. Despite exemptions drawn up by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases that would allow farmers and fisherfolk to continue their livelihood, the limited movement of raw materials and goods impeded the free flow operation of the sector.
Crop production, which accounted for 54.9 percent of the total farm output, shrank by 2.1 percent during the quarter, while fisheries contracted by 5.2 percent.
Only livestock and poultry were able to inch up by 0.5 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively. The two subsectors accounted for 21.8 percent of the country’s agrifishery production.
At current prices, the value of the country’s total farm output amounted to P441.2 billion, up by 3.4 percent from the previous year’s level.
Dar said the agency remained hopeful of a rebound in the second quarter, noting that strategic interventions under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund were expected to bear fruit and closed fishing season lifted in rich fishing grounds.
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