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  • By Ernie Tolentino

Agricultural Production Up In Q3

Agricultural production rose in the third quarter, as growth in crops, livestock, and poultry sectors offset the decline in fisheries output, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.

Photo Insert: Fisheries, which accounts for 15.3% of the total agricultural production, was the only sector to register a decline in the third quarter.

Data released by the PSA showed the value of production in agriculture and fisheries at constant 2018 prices expanded 1.8% in the July-September period. This was a reversal of the 0.6% contraction in the second quarter, and the 2.6% decline in the same quarter in 2021.

“At current prices, the value of production in agriculture and fisheries which amounted to P501.58 billion was 12.3% higher than the previous year’s level,” the PSA said. For the nine-month period, the value of agricultural production inched up 0.3%, reversing the 2.5% decline a year ago. The agriculture sector contributes around a tenth to the overall GDP. Third-quarter economic data is scheduled to be released today (Nov. 10).

Crops, which contributed 53.9% to the total value of agricultural output, jumped by an annual 1.8% in the third quarter. This was an improvement from the 2.8% drop in the second quarter, and the 0.2 dip in the same quarter of 2021. However, crop production contracted 1.0% in the January-to-September period, a reversal of the 2.1% growth a year ago.

In the third quarter, palay (paddy rice) and corn production went up 1.0% and 2.5%, respectively. Sugarcane output surged 78.8%, while abaca production jumped 21.7%. Pablo Luis S. Azcona, who represents the sugar planters’ bloc in the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), said the higher sugar production was due to the early start of milling season.

“We started close to two weeks earlier. Right now, production is higher compared to last year of the same period,” Azcona explained said.

In August, the government pushed for the reopening of sugar mills ahead of the milling schedule to address supply shortages that pushed prices higher. The current sugar crop year began on Sept. 1 and will end on Aug. 31, 2023. Higher production was also reported in cacao (8.2%), tomato (6.1%), bitter gourd or ampalaya (2.7%), eggplant (2.3%), sweet potato (2.2%), tobacco (1.9%), onion (1.7%), pineapple (1.5%), cabbage (1.2%) and coconut (1%).

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Production of mongo (0.7%), cassava (0.3%), and banana (0.1%) was nearly flat.

Data also showed a decline in output for calamansi (6.2%), coffee (4%), mango (3.8%), potato (1%), and rubber (0.3%). At current prices, crop production increased 4.2% to P240.97 billion from the previous year’s record.

Livestock, Poultry

Meanwhile, livestock, which accounted for 15.6% of total production, went up 4.0% in the July-to-September period, from -15.3% recorded in the same quarter in 2021. In the first nine months, the value of livestock production jumped 1.8%, from -19.4% in 2021. Hog production rose 4.5% in the third quarter, alongside expansion for dairy (15.8%), carabao (3.5%), and cattle (1.2%). Goat production contracted by 1.0%.

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Fermin D. Adriano, former Agriculture undersecretary for policy, planning, and research, said in a written message that livestock production improved as the hog industry continued to recover from the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

In the latest bulletin by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), the number of active ASF cases is now confined to only nine regions, 17 provinces, and 26 municipalities, from the 15 regions, 58 provinces, and 748 municipalities when the disease first struck in 2019. PSA's data also showed poultry production, which made up 15.2% of the total agricultural output, expanded 6.4% during the third quarter. This is an improvement from the 1.3% growth in the July to September period in 2021.

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The value of poultry production jumped 8.8% in the January to September period, from -1.3% in the same period in 2021. The third-quarter poultry performance was attributed to the strong growth of duck eggs (13.9%), chicken (6.7%), and chicken eggs (6.1%), which offset the 12.1% slump in duck production.

At current prices, the value of livestock production stood at P94.49 billion, higher by 18.7% from the previous year. Roehlano M. Briones, a senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, noted the growth in chicken production was lifted by higher demand.

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Fisheries Slump

Meanwhile, fisheries, which accounts for 15.3% of the total agricultural production, was the only sector to register a decline in the third quarter. Value of fisheries production fell 4.2%, worsening from the 2.4% decline in the second quarter and the 0.01% growth in the same period a year ago. The nine-month fisheries output also contracted 4.0%, from -0.3% in the same period a year ago.

Double-digit growth was seen in squid or pusit (43.3%), bigeye tuna (32.4%), yellowfin tuna (27.6%), fimbriated sardines or tunsoy (18.3%), and seaweed (10.8%). However, this was offset by the double-digit slump in mudcrab or alimango (32.5%), blue crab or alimasag (29.4%), Indian mackerel or alumahan (20.7%), tiger prawn or sugpo (20.5%), Bali sardinella or tamban (17.2%), grouper or lapu-lapu (14.2%) and milkfish or bangus (10.9%).

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At current prices, the value of fisheries production amounted to P77.97 billion, up 10.3% year on year. “Fisheries declined because of a series of typhoons, such as Typhoon Karding. Fishermen were unable to fish,” Adriano said.

Agricultural damage by Typhoon Karding, which made landfall in September, was at P3.12 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture. The volume of lost production was estimated at 158,117 metric tons (MT) with 170,762 hectares of farmland and 108,594 farmers and fisherfolk affected.

Meanwhile, damage from Severe Tropical Storm Florita, which made landfall in August, reached P1.13 billion, affecting 6,647 farmers, with volume of lost production at 66,633 MT spanning 44,922 hectares of farmland. Analysts cautioned that the annual growth seen in the third quarter could be misleading, and may not signal a sustained expansion in the last quarter.

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Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor noted the annual decline in crops and fisheries output in the nine-month period. “Poultry and livestock are just rebounding from negative growth rates in the previous year. We were expecting a worse output mainly due to the effect of fertilizer and fuel prices,” he said. At the end of September, the average price of a bag of prilled urea rose 64.7% year on year to P2,523.08.

Briones also noted that growth in agriculture tends to be “erratic.” He added: “I see no reason for growth to be sustained, especially with threats from climate, diseases, and high input costs.”

Adriano said production could rise due to greater demand ahead of the holiday season. “It (also) depends on whether hogs continue recovering from ASF and poultry from avian flu. Crops might suffer a decline because of high fertilizer costs and typhoon damage,” he said.

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