By Adrian H. Halili, Reporter
A REBOUND in agricultural output was deemed likely in 2023, with analysts citing the low base the industry is coming off in 2022.
“We forecast growth of 1.3% this 2023 with crops and poultry contributing significantly,” former Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said in a text message.
“Very hard to determine. But since we are coming from a low base in 2022, I would not be surprised if there is a slight uptick in output in real terms,” Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said in a Viber message.
If the forecasts are borne out, they would reverse the 0.1% contraction in the value of production in agriculture and fisheries in 2022, at constant 2018 prices.
The decline in 2022 output was due to weak production in crops and fisheries, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
Agriculture production fell 0.3% in the third quarter of 2023.
Agriculture accounts for about a tenth of gross domestic product and around a quarter of all jobs.
Earlier, Agriculture Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Arnel V. de Mesa told reporters that the DA is expecting “positive growth” in agriculture output for 2023 though the growth would fall below 3-4%.
Mr. De Mesa said that the lack of major typhoons and disasters during the fourth quarter likely improved overall farm output for the year.
The DA’s official target is 2.3%-2.5% growth in 2023.
Mr. Montemayor said that the growth in production would be buoyed by “generally good weather” and higher farmgate prices, mainly for palay or unmilled rice.
The National Food Authority (NFA) raised buying prices for palay in September to P19-23 per kilogram for dry and P16-19 per kilo for wet palay.
Palay production for 2023 was initially estimated to have grown 1.53% to 20.06 million metric tons (MT), exceeding the 20 million MT target set earlier by the DA.
“Historical high, yes, but actually a minimal increase, not even enough to offset population and demand growth. (Gross Value Added) palay grew much larger due to an increase in farmgate prices,” Mr. Montemayor added.
The national farmgate price for palay rose 14% to an average of P19.89 per kilo in 2023.
National daily consumption of rice is equivalent to 33,983.5 MT or 679,670 bags, according to the NFA.
Elias Jose M. Inciong, president of the United Broiler Raisers Association, said the poultry segment has continued to be a growth driver in overall agricultural production.
However, the H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), or bird flu, continues to hinder further growth, Mr. Inciong added.
“HPAI will always be a concern unless and until we have effective vaccines for breeders and layers,” he said.
In November, the DA released guidelines for the deployment of bird flu vaccines to be administered to commercial farms for layer chicken, layer chicken breeders, broiler chicken breeders, free-range breeders, grandparent broiler breeders, as well as small-hold layer/native chicken, duck, game fowl, turkey, and goose farms.
The DA said that it will give priority in deploying protective emergency vaccines to areas with a high concentration of HPAI cases.
He said that the poultry industry will likely post 4% to 6% growth this year, “if we can minimize disruptions from imports and provide strong domestic support.”
“Livestock and fisheries are still struggling. There is African Swine Fever (ASF) contributing largely to the level of performance of the pig industry,” Mr. Dar added.
About 21 provinces have active cases of ASF as of Jan. 18, according to the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).
Production in the fisheries sector contracted 5% in 2022, and 6.1% during the third quarter of 2023.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is enforcing closed season on several major fisheries.
Last year, sardine fishing was banned between Nov. 15 and Feb. 15. This coincided with the closure of fishing in the Visayan Sea for small pelagic fish, including sardines.
Sardine fishing was also banned in northern Palawan between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31, while a closed season for herring and mackerel in the Visayan Sea was declared between Nov. 15 and Feb. 15.
The PSA is set to release its fourth quarter and full-year data for agricultural output on Jan. 30.