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by Riza T. Olchondra
20-January-2010 Philippine Daily Inquirer
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MANILA, Philippines--The farm and fisheries sector missed its revised growth target of 0.5-1.5 percent for 2009.

The Department of Agriculture’s original growth target for 2009 was about 3.5 percent, or a bit lower than the 2008 growth of 3.8 percent.

Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), however, showed that the agriculture sector grew by only 0.37 percent, as full-year figures were pulled down by the typhoon-riddled October-December period.

“The gains of the first three quarters were cut by huge production losses during the fourth quarter of 2009,” Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap said.

In the fourth quarter alone, farm output shrank by 2.43 percent from year-ago level.

The crops sector bore the brunt of typhoons and floods.

Palay or unmilled rice production, which makes up a fifth of the total farm output, dropped in the last three months of the year by 13 percent to 5.36 million tons from 6.22 million tons in the same months in 2008.

The fisheries subsector was the agriculture sector’s top gainer in 2009, with a 2.45-percent production growth in the same period. Poultry production grew by 1.82 percent, followed by crops (1.42 percent) and livestock (1.24 percent) from year-ago level.

For the whole year, Palay production declined by 3.31 percent to 16.26 million tons from year-ago level, while corn output rose by 1.53 percent.

Coconut production grew by 2.2 percent but sugarcane output declined by 10.77 percent.

The agriculture department blamed Tropical Storm "Ondoy" and Typhoon "Pepeng" for the decline in farm output.

Concerned with food security, the DA said it would give priority to agriculture and fisheries biotechnology and post-harvest technology in an effort to increase productivity and incomes.

The government revised its growth targets for 2009 twice as extreme weather conditions pulled down harvests. The original farm output growth target for 2009 was 3.5 percent. It was scaled down to about 2.5 percent in the middle of 2009 and was later adjusted to 0.5 to 1.5 percent in the aftermath of “Ondoy” and “Pepeng.”

Sometime in December, the DA said the sector would likely meet the lower end of its adjusted growth target range.

The government had already made large rice tenders in a tight global market late last year to head off possible shortages of rice. With a report from AFP

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