Wednesday, 11 May 2011

PH posts highest ever palay harvest in first quarter

By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Philippine agriculture grew 4.10 percent in the first quarter of the year on the back of strong crop output, including an “unprecedented” palay (unmilled rice) harvest, the Department of Agriculture said Tuesday.

The rice sector expanded 15.63 percent to 4.03 million metric tons (MT) in the first quarter, “the highest rice volume we have seen since Filipinos started planting rice,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told the media. “This was unprecedented.”

Agriculture’s expansion, although lower than the target of 4.5 to 5.5 percent, was a turnaround from last year’s negative growth and was the fastest first-quarter growth since 2004, as rains boosted corn and rice production, the agriculture department said.

Palay production was only 3.49 million MT in the first quarter of 2010 because of drought, data from the agriculture department showed.

Self-sufficiency by 2013

Alcala said the palay sector’s performance was a step toward rice self-sufficiency by 2013, a key midterm goal of the Aquino administration.

The increase in the production of the Philippine staple made it unlikely for the country to increase its rice imports to 860,000 MT, [just about a third of last year’s record volume of 2.45 million MT], the agriculture secretary said.

The country has become the world’s largest rice importer in recent years.

At current prices, agriculture output in the first quarter amounted to P347.2 billion, 12.72 percent higher than that recorded in the same period last year, the agriculture department said.

“We project even higher growth for the next two quarters that will put us on target as the programs and interventions show results in terms of still higher output and production,” Alcala said.

Crops, which expanded 8.19 percent, contributed heavily to the expansion of agriculture output, according to the agriculture department.

He said palay production accounted for 52.99 percent of the total farm output in the first quarter.

Despite the specter of stronger storms in the second part of the year, the agriculture department still expects palay production to hit about 17.46 million MT in 2011, more than 10 percent higher than last year’s harvest.

“We won’t be able to project how intense these storms will be, but we have factored them in the projections,” Alcala said.

Corn yield up

Corn yield grew 19.50 percent to 1.9 million MT, while sugarcane expanded 26.73 percent.

“Improved production performances were also reported for banana, cassava, cabbage and rubber. [Crops] grossed P206.1 billion at current prices and recorded a 26.69-percent increase from the 2010 level,” the agriculture department said.

Alcala said he expected crops to continue to post higher double-digit growth in the next three quarters, with peaks in the second and third quarters.

Bigger trading posts

The government will continue to help vegetable and rice farmers so they can sustain the growth, he said.

“We will increase the trading posts in the country,” the agriculture secretary said.

He said the government would build a bigger trading center in Benguet province, the country’s main vegetable grower.

“This trading center is four times bigger than the current one. It will be on a 4-hectare property behind the strawberry fields. We will also put up a processing plant,” he said.

Livestock, poultry, fishery

The livestock and the poultry sectors registered minimal growth and their values went down.

The livestock sector barely moved in 2011, posting a 0.59 percent growth. Its value declined 3.04 percent to P49.70 billion at current prices.

The poultry sector expanded 3.92 percent but its value went down 4.35 percent to P39 billion.

Of the four subsectors, only the fisheries industry declined. Output fell 3.49 percent. The subsector grossed P52.40 billion at current prices, 1.67 lower than last year’s.

Alcala said the decline in fisheries output was due to the damage sustained by the industry from the typhoons last year. Some fishermen also slowed down after years of overfishing, he said. With a report from Reuters

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