Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Philippines sees farm output growing 3% this year

Written by Jennifer A. Ng
Business Mirror

PHILIPPINE farm output could still grow by at least 3 percent in 2009 despite the sector’s poor performance in the first quarter, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said yesterday.

Yap admitted that the farm sector faces a number of difficult challenges this year, one of which is climate change.

“We’re holding on to the minimum 3 percent. We hope we can do better, but that is the moving target,” Yap told reporters at the sidelines of the listing of agro-commercial firm AgriNurture Inc. in the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Farm output rose 2.02 percent in the first quarter, down from 3.89 percent in January to March 2008.

Palay production bolstered farm output with a 5.13 percent year-on-year growth. Production reached 5.14 million metric tons (MMT) in January to March 2009.

Yap said second quarter palay production would prop up paddy rice production for the first semester of 2009. Palay production is expected to reach 7.3 MMT in January to June this year.

Paddy-rice production for the whole year of 2009 could reach 17 MMT, or 1.2 percent higher than the 16.8 MMT registered for the whole of 2008.

“It’s a conservative estimate. It’s difficult to make projections because of climate change. It is affecting crops. For one, the storms came earlier this year,” said Yap.

Yap said that as part of its management plan, DA officials are being encouraged to take into consideration a liberalized trading regime and climate change in the department’s reengineering efforts.

Fisheries production, the DA chief said, would also suffer from climate change, and that the phenomenon could adversely impact seas and coral reefs. The fisheries subsector has been the major driver of farm growth in recent years.

“It’s easy to make deductions and projections [related to farm growth], but I’m apprehensive about the weather conditions,” said Yap.

In the DA’s production strategies, he said DA officials incorporate climate change adaptations to help farmers cope with the devastating effects of climate change.

Meanwhile, Yap disclosed that the private sector would bring in at least 100,000 metric tons (MT) of imported rice this year.

“I’m glad the private sector will be importing the 100,000 MT. Money spent by the private sector is less money going out of the government’s coffers,” he said.

For 2009, government has pegged its rice importation at 1.8 MMT. Manila imports rice to plug production shortfall and beef up the National Food Authority’s stocks.

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