PHILIPPINES - Philippine agriculture is well-positioned to sustain its growth momentum this year, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said. And to help fuel this expansion, the DA chief said the Department will vigorously pursue rural infrastructure and technology build-up that will further develop and modernise the agricultural economy.
Citing last week’s statement of Secretary Arsenio Balisacan on the fourth quarter and the full year 2014 economic performance, the DA chief said growth areas include the crops subsectors, led by rice and corn.
Fisheries is also expected to recover from last year’s slowdown, while livestock and poultry is projected to register a respectable expansion, he added.
“The noteworthy performance of Philippine agriculture in 2014, notably the 4.8 per cent increase in output in the fourth quarter of 2014 from the 0.9 per cent growth in the same period in 2013, is indicative that the industry is firmly into the path of sustained expansion,” Mr Alcala said.
“Growth was achieved despite the strong typhoons that battered some key production areas,” he added.
Overall, the agri-fishery sector grew by 1.83 per cent last year in terms of volume and nearly 10 per cent in terms of value, the Philippine Statistics Authority said in a separate report.
It was another banner year, in particular, for palay and corn subsectors whose output reached new historical highs. Palay output reached 19 million metric tons, or 2.87 per cent more than last year’s harvest, while corn production at 7.8 million metric tons was higher by 5.33 per cent.
With the Aquino administration reaching the homestretch, Mr Alcala said DA has switched to high gear in the implementation of its continuing initiatives, including the Food Staples Sufficiency Program and its directorate programs for rice, corn, livestock and poultry, fisheries and high value crops.
“Our tasks at the DA continue to revolve around the goals of sustained food security and increased rural incomes – but with stronger emphasis on equitable progress, in keeping with President Aquino’s inclusive growth agenda,” the DA chief said.
To attain these objectives, DA has intensified the implementation of its Farm Mechanization, National Organic Agriculture and Post-Harvest Development Programs across all commodity programs to minimize the cost of production, reduce post-harvest losses, and stabilise labor costs.
This year also marks the formal start of its World Bank-supported Philippine Rural Development Project, a six-year initiative that aims improve rural infrastructure to enhance productivity, connectivity and integration of production areas to markets. PRDP actually commenced in 2014 when the preparatory activities took place, including the formulation of commodity investment plans of participating LGUs.
In PRDP, DA partners with LGUs and the private sector to provide farmers’ and fishers’ groups with key infrastructure, facilities, technology and information in support of their food production, value-adding and marketing activities.
“We want the rural sector to diversify, and produce various commodities of increasingly good quality,” Mr Alcala said. “That is the key to sustainable food security and inclusive socio-economic prosperity.”
Mr Alcala said DA is particularly gearing up for the ASEAN economic integration this year, which is expected to usher in more intense competition among Southeast Asian nations for their agri-fishery exports.
“Our preparations also focus on technical and legislative matters, notably, the passage in 2013 of the Food Safety Act and the completion of the IRR in 2014,” said Mr Alcala. “This piece of legislation directs our industry players to operate following global standards.”
Mr Alcala said Philippine agriculture needs to explore fully the immense new market opportunities offered by free trade agreements for both traditional and new agricultural exports.
TheFishSite News Desk