MANILA -- The farm sector likely grew a "measly" 1 percent in 2018, slowing from the previous year, as the country reeled from typhoons that wrought billions of pesos in damage to crops, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said Tuesday.
Agriculture growth in 2018 missed the department's target with at least 12 storms lashing the country. It was lower than the 3.9-percent expansion in 2017, Piñol told ANC's Headstart.
"You have to take into consideration that it was a bad year," he said. "You have factors in agriculture that cannot be controlled. Can you stop Ompong and Usman?"
Piñol was referring to two weather systems that inundated farmlands towards the end of the year.
Addressing an earlier pronouncement of Budget Sec. Benjamin Diokno that agriculture was the economy's "weakest link" quoting President Rodrigo Duterte, Piñol said those were not the chief executive's words.
"The President never used the word the weakest link but he urged us to work harder, implement more reforms in agriculture," Piñol said.
Piñol said his department's budget was reduced to P55 billion in 2017 from P65 billion in 2016. Despite the cut, 2017 growth was still at 3.9 percent.
"The words 'weakest link' would only be defined by how much you invest in agriculture," he said.
"Even if you do the right things, the fruit tress would just not bear fruit. There are factors in agriculture that cannot be quantified," he said.