MANILA - Poultry farmers said the spike in the unemployment rate in agriculture was not just because of bad weather which hit production, but also due to the government’s policies promoting the importation of meat.
The United Broiler Raiser Association added that higher production costs and poor demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic also affected the sector.
UBRA issued this statement following the state statistics bureau’s release earlier on Thursday of the unemployment figures for September.
Job losses in agriculture and forestry were the biggest contributors to unemployment in September, pushing the jobless rate to 8.9 percent, the highest since July last year, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Around 862,000 agriculture and forestry jobs were lost in September, the PSA said.
The National Economic and Development Authority meanwhile blamed this on bad weather.
"The biggest driver of the net employment loss during the period was agriculture, as Typhoon Jolina affected some 30,000 hectares of agricultural land across the regions of Central Luzon, Calabarzon, MIMAROPA, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, and Eastern Visayas, and contributed to the around 900,000 employment loss in the sector. This decline came after the sector regained 1.9 million employment in August,” NEDA said.
UBRA president Bong Inciong however disputed NEDA’s statement saying ”one typhoon cannot cause a drop of that magnitude.”
“Our view is that it is a combination of very poor demand because of COVID, policies favorable to importation, and high input costs discouraging production thereby causing increase in unemployment,” Inciong said.
The Duterte administration has been importing rice, pork and other food products to help stabilize domestic supply and inflation. Farmers groups such as UBRA meanwhile have been calling on government to provide more support for local farmers to improve domestic production.
Inciong said the poultry industry has yet to recover from the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The broiler industry is not back to pre-pandemic production levels,” Inciong said.
The employment picture for the farm sector likely did not improve in October. Typhoon Maring hit that month, damaging many of the same regions hit by Jolina in Luzon and Visayas, while also damaging areas in Mindanao including General Santos City and Sarangani.
The total damage to agriculture by Maring was estimated at P1.7 billion by the Department of Agriculture. The DA estimated Typhoon Jolina’s total damage to farms at P1.4B.