Farm output likely declined again in Q2

By Rocel Felix, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Aug 15 2010 03:26 PM | Updated as of Aug 16 2010 12:26 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The country's farm sector likely contracted in the second quarter due to the continued impact of the prolonged drought or El Nino, agriculture experts said on Sunday.

Rolando Dy, executive director of the Center for Food and Agribusiness of Asia & the Pacific (CFA-UA&P) said he expects a bigger decline in agricultural output from April to June.

"The agriculture sector could post a 3.5% decline in the second quarter."

In the first quarter, the farm sector, which makes up a fifth of the Philippine economy and employs more than half of the workforce, contracted by 2.8% as thousands of farm lands dried up due to the dry spell, including rice crops. 

"The second quarter could be worse because of poor outcomes in grains, sugar and other crops. And drought or not, the livestock subsector is also not doing well," Dy told abs-cbnNews.com.

Aside from a negative growth in the grains subsector, especially rice, sugar crop growth was also stunted by the prolonged drought. This prompted the Sugar Regulatory Administration to auction in late July, the rights to import 150,000 tons of tariff-free sugar.
 
Dy said that the farm sector could recover in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter, barring any major climatic disasters which would enable rice production to recover from the effects of the El Niño, and as the Department of Agriculture (DA) steps up measures to boost production and reduce expensive rice importations.

However, agriculture consultant Pablito M. Villegas who is also a member of the Organic Producers and Trade Association and convenor of the Inter-Continental Network of Organic Farmers Organizations, does not expect the farm sector to fully recover from the destruction brought about by the drought, and later in the year, floods resulting from another weather deviant, the La Niña.

"Due to the combined effects of El Niño and the La Niña, even the third quarter will be on the decline, particularly for rice, corn, vegetables, livestock and fisheries."

Villegas said the DA will need to beef up measures to mitigate the effects of climate change, as well as to adapt strategies and raise public investments required to sustain the growth of the farm sector.

Previously, the CFA-UA&P downgraded its farm sector growth forecast for 2010 to half a percent to 1.5% from 3-4% due largely to the impact of weather abnormalities. Its revised forecast is lower than the DA's projected full year growth of 2.5%.

The DA is expected to report the farm sector's second quarter performance on Monday.