The country’s agriculture sector that the government was hoping to grow by at least 2.5 percent this year failed to start the year right by contracting by a hefty 3.3 percent in the first three months of 2021.
The disappointing decline was slower than the previous quarter’s 3.8 percent drop, it was still far worse than the 1.2 percent output decline seen in the same period last year.
The drop in agricultural production was most felt in the poultry and livestock subsectors that were hit by low farm prices and the viral African swine fever. The livestock sector that accounts for 14.2 percent of the country’s total farm output shrank by 23.2 percent.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the poor performance of the hog industry in the first three months was “expected” as efforts to control ASF and repopulate areas freed from the scourge of the disease “are yet to bear fruit.” It is notable that ASF hit the country even before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out and yet the country’s agriculture sector is still reeling from the effects of the virus.
Dar assured the public that the Department of Agriculture was working toward shoring up the sector’s output and contribute to the rebound of the economy battered by Covid-induced quarantine restrictions.
When the plans to “Plant, Plant, Plant” will bear fruit, we do not know because despite the assurances, and as the statistics indicate, the agriculture sector has still failed to grow over the past year despite the advantage of supposedly being less vulnerable to Covid than other industries and sectors.If Filipinos are to hope that their government can still turn things around, agriculture would be a good start.
If the agriculture sector can be nurtured and prioritized, the provinces and rural areas can play a bigger role in the country’s path to recovery from the pandemic.*