Farm sector eyes recovery this year

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The local agriculture sector expects to post a two percent growth this year despite facing tougher conditions.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the agency focuses on revitalizing the sector which is barely contributing to the national economy.

This year’s target is a huge jump from the measly 0.7 percent growth recorded in 2019.

“We are confident that we can attain a two percent growth this year, that in turn will help fuel a higher national economic growth target,” Dar said.

One of 2019’s biggest problems in agriculture is the entry of African swine fever in the country which resulted in lower production of hogs.

“We will be head-strong to continuously manage, contain and control the spread of ASF as we will strictly enforce biosecurity measures and set up more stringent quarantine checkpoints, provide more disinfection facilities, and intensify our anti-smuggling and meat inspection efforts,” Dar said.

To date, ASF is nowhere near containment as the disease has crept to more provinces with culled pigs already nearing 200,000.

The falling farm gate price of palay, which was also a major concern last year, has yet to improve following the liberalization of the rice industry.

Latest data showed prices of  palay (unhusked rice) averaged at P15.82 per kilogram as of the second week of January, down 20.3 percent from last year’s P19.85 a kilo.

“We will vigorously and sustainably pursue the effective implementation of the programs and projects under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or RCEF,” Dar said.

The P10-billion RCEF is expected to be the saving grace of farmers to help them improve their production.

DA said it would focus on strengthening its partnership with local government units, private sector, academe, civil society organizations, and organized farmers and fishers group to help grow the industry.

“We will support and pursue the production and export of agricultural and fishery commodities that we have comparative advantage,” Dar said.

“We will continue pursuing and strengthening strategic partnerships with major and emerging trading partners, and more importantly intensify the marketing and promotion of Philippine farm and fishery products worldwide,” he said.

DA said it would elevate its game in implementing programs that would ensure a food-secure Philippines in the years to come.

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