The Department of Agriculture (DA) has presented to the Cabinet’s Economic Development Cluster (EDC) a three-pronged approach that includes distributing certified rice seeds and fertilizers to farmers and importing corn at zero tariff, to energize the underperforming agriculture sector and have it contribute significantly to gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2019.
In his presentation before the EDC headed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said his Department’s three-pronged plan of action covers productivity enhancement interventions for major crops such as rice, corn and sorghum; regulatory and support activities for the poultry and livestock subsectors; and livelihood and safety interventions for the fisheries subsector.
“This whole program now has to be translated into higher growth for 2019,” Dominguez said of the DA’s plan.
Dominguez convened the EDC again on Tuesday (May 28) to determine the DA’s catch-up plan for the second to fourth quarters of 2019, and how this sector can be a significant contributor to GDP growth for the whole of 2019.
The EDC has come up with an expenditure catch-up plan that focuses on accelerating infrastructure spending for the second to fourth quarters to keep GDP growth above the 6 percent level in 2019.
The economy posted below-than-expected expansion in the year’s first quarter as the budget impasse in the Congress forced the government to run on a reenacted 2018 budget at the outset of 2019 and hold back on the implementation of new programs and projects as part of its aggressive spending plan on infrastructure and human capital development.
Dominguez, who had served as DA Secretary during the former Corazon Aquino administration, pointed out that to further boost the economy, agriculture also has to recover from its 10-year, low-growth phase and expand by at least 2 percent per annum.
With only 0.8 percent growth, Philippine agriculture’s anemic performance in 2018 contributed only 0.1 percent to GDP expansion last year. It grew 0.67 percent in the first three months of 2019, accounting for a paltry 0.1 percentage point of GDP growth for that quarter.
In his presentation before the EDC, Piñol said he expects the full implementation of programs under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), as provided under Republic Act (RA) No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, to significantly contribute to the growth of agriculture by the first quarter of 2020.
For the rest of 2019, Piñol reported to the EDC that the DA’s catch-up plan for the crops subsector involves the early distribution of certified seeds to palay growers tilling a combined 2.2 million hectares of land.
The DA is also distributing fertilizers in areas with sufficient irrigation covering 42,902 hectares in time for the harvest season in the second semester of 2019.
With an expected rice production increment of 1 metric ton (MT) per hectare, these 42,902 hectares of land planted to palay is valued at P729.3 million, Piñol said.
Seeds and fertilizers will also be distributed to corn and sorghum growers, Piñol said.
The DA is also targeting an expansion area of 100,000 hectares for corn and another 100,000 hectares for sorghum for the wet season planting to be harvested within the second half of 2019, he added.
“For corn and sorghum, we will be selecting areas with low weather disturbances,” Piñol said.
With these measures, Piñol said he expects corn production of around 600,000 MT valued at P9.1 billion and sorghum production of about 400,000 MT valued at P6 billion.
He also cited the adoption of new plant varieties to protect top fruit exports such as bananas and mangoes from diseases, and expanding vegetable farming in some 50,000 hectares of land in Mindanao.
For poultry and livestock, Piñol has proposed importing 300,000 MT of corn at zero tariff to be sourced from countries free of the African Swine Fever (ASF).
“These should not be delivered during the bulk harvest season of the second semester which covers the months of September to October,” he said.
He also proposed imposing a temporary ban on the importation of livestock for around five months to keep the local industry ASF-free.
Piñol also introduced a plan to establish four dairy farm complexes, each housing 6,000 dairy cows in four locations across the country with an estimated 36 million liters of milk production valued at P1.4 billion.
In the fisheries subsector, Piñol said the DA plans to help set up 300 fish cages per region using funds from the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) Lending Program.
The Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) will coordinate lending across all regions in the country, he said.
This project, Piñol said, is estimated to produce 96,000 MT of fish valued at P9.98 billion.
The DA will also continuously monitor water quality and fish stocks in brackish water and freshwater areas in relation to the effects of the El Niño, he added.