Agri output decline likely in Q4

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    An aerial inspection by the Philippine Coast Guard of several flooded towns in the Cagayan Valley on Nov. 14, 2020 unravels the damage Typhoon Ulysses left in region. (PCG/Handout via Reuters

    Crop production will contract in the fourth quarter of 2020, and there’s a “high chance for agriculture posting a negative growth.”

    The prognosis comes from the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

    “It is important to take note that among the major economic sectors, it is only agriculture that has managed to achieve a positive growth since the onset of the COVID-19 (new coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic,” said Dr. Glenn Gregorio, SEARCA director. “I was praying that this be sustained for the rest of the year to show how resilient agriculture is, until the back-to-back typhoons this November happened.”

    In a statement on the typhoons that hit the country, especially the Cagayan region, Gregorio noted the positive 0.7 percent growth of agriculture in the third quarter of 2020 largely due to favorable harvests, particularly rice and corn.

    “However, crop production systems are highly vulnerable to typhoons that have been increasing both in intensity and frequency,” he said.

    For the fourth quarter of 2020, rice was estimated to have increased by 7 percent in Cagayan Valley, with a projected production of slightly over a million metric tons.

    However, the massive flooding in Cagayan Valley due to Typhoon Ulysses has resulted in a 12 percent loss at least in rice production for the country.

    “Much is surely at stake here given that Cagayan Valley is a rice granary of the northern Philippines and comprises major rice-producing provinces like Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino,” Gregorio said.

    For the fourth quarter of 2020, rice production was estimated to have a positive growth of 7 percent. However, due to Typhoon Ulysses, rice production could decline by 5 percent for the fourth quarter 2020, according to SEARCA’s forecast.

    The estimated rice production losses in Cagayan Valley in the fourth quarter translates to a 12 percent reduction in the projected value of crops in the country.

    “The impact of a typhoon is not just incurred during and immediately after a typhoon’s departure,” Gregorio pointed out. “The true cost of the typhoon’s wrath includes both the short- and long-term and it is the latter that must be given due attention if we are to be wiser in how to build back better sooner.”

    He said recovery efforts especially in the rice farming communities of Cagayan Valley would require substantial financial stimulus to afford the farmers the necessary capital to bounce back.

    Immediate response would mean adoption of a highly adaptable set of integrated technological intervention for agriculture.

    “As our country remains to be vulnerable to typhoons year in and year out, a systemic future-proofing intervention is needed and enabled by innovations necessary to make it operational and sustainable,” Gregorio said.

    Based at the University of the Philippines campus in Los Baños, SEARCA is tasked to build capacities in agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia.