MANILA, June 23 (Mabuhay) — Agriculture Secretary William Dar is eyeing a bounce-back in agriculture growth once the livestock sector gains full recovery.

In a virtual briefer on Tuesday, Dar mentioned several highlights of the administration despite what he calls the “perfect storm” with the consecutive strong typhoons ravishing the farmlands, the eruption of Taal Volcano damaging agricultural resources, and restricted mobility due to pandemic protocols.

“In totality, pag mayroon na tayong lunas sa African swine fever (ASF), at idagdag mo na ang contribution of livestock and poultry which is more than 23 percent to the gross value added in agriculture, ang ganda na ng pag-angat ng sector ng agrikultura (If we can finally get an ASF vaccine, this and the contribution of the livestock sector which can get up to 23 percent to the gross value added in agriculture, we will achieve the growth we are aiming for in agriculture),” he said.

In a slide presented during his briefer, Dar noted that the economic performance of three main sectors in the Philippines — Industry, Service, and Agriculture — have all incurred a dip in their figure but agriculture has the least negative growth with only -1.2 percent.

Dar said compared to industry and services sectors which gained -4.7 percent and -4.4 percent, respectively, agriculture is still projecting “almost in the neutral growth”.

“Lahat ng sub-sectors in agriculture ay tumaas, it was pulled down by the Livestock sub-sector (All sub-sectors in agriculture increased but it was pulled down by the livestock sub-sector),” he said.

For the first quarter of 2021, agriculture subsectors recorded the following: rice (8.6 percent), corn (6.4 percent), coffee (12.3 percent), cacao (11.4 percent), pineapple (5.3 percent), mango (4.1 percent), and livestock (-23.2 percent).

Progress has been in sight for the recovery of the hog industry as earlier reports said Batangas Province was already declared ASF free.

Dar said once the areas are free of ASF, authorities shall develop to issue a certification which means they can now go to the banks and borrow money for the intended recovery.

The ASF vaccine trials started on April 2021 with 10 commercial swine farms participating. The Bureau of Animal Industry said the trials will be for 84 days in line with the current protocols set by the government technical working group and vaccine manufacturer Zoetis Philippines, Inc.

Meanwhile, another factor that made the agriculture sector resilient during the global crisis is the record-high performance of rice production in the country.

In 2020, 19.4 million metric tons of rice production was recorded. It is the highest in the history of the country.

“It could be considered as the most impactful legacy of the Duterte administration,” Dar said. (MNS)

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