By MADELAINE B. MIRAFLOR

All things considered, even with Taal Volcano eruption so far causing as much as ₱3.23 billion damage to agriculture sector and African swine fever (ASF) still out to kill more hogs in Luzon, the Department of Agriculture (DA) won’t let itself get distracted and is still eyeing a 2 percent growth for the farm sector.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar MANILA BULLETIN - DA hopeful on 2% agri growth in 2020

Agriculture Secretary William Dar (MANILA BULLETIN)

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he was confident the country’s farm sector could still achieve an annual growth of 2 percent in the next 11 months.

This was despite the fact that the agriculture sector grew way below Dar’s target for 2019. Last year, the agri chief was expecting the sector to grow “have 2 percent to 2.5 percent growth,” but it only ended up with a measly growth of 0.7 percent, only slightly higher than the improvement of 0.6 percent recorded in 2018.

Last year, the sector had to deal with the first cases of ASF, the low farm-gate prices of palay, threat of fall army worm, and low prices of coconut oil.

“With that as a starting point, we are confident that we can attain a 2 percent growth this year, that in turn will help fuel a higher national economic growth target,” Dar said in a statement on Friday.

“While the challenges are formidable, ushered in by the eruption of Taal Volcano, the DA will remain firm and focused to fuel the revitalization of the country’s agricultural sector, which is counted as one of the three major economic growth drivers in 2020,” he added.

According to Dar, a 2 percent growth will be achieved through strong partnership between the DA and the local government units, private industry, academe, civil society organizations, organized farmers’ and fishers’ group. This time, also with a new breed of young “agripreneurs.”

“We will vigorously and sustainably pursue the effective implementation of the programs and projects under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or RCEF,” the DA chief said.

“Likewise, we will be head-strong to continuously manage, contain and control the spread of ASF as we will strictly enforce biosecurity measures and set up more stringent quarantine checkpoints, provide more disinfection facilities, and intensify our anti-smuggling and meat inspection efforts,” he added.

When asked for comment, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. (PCAFI) President Danilo Fausto said a 2 percent growth for the agriculture sector so far remains feasible though he also said that it could be early to tell.

“I hope so. [In terms of importation] we are moving on with the quarantine system. The ASF is still there. There are new areas that have been hit. It will still affect the meat consumption. I hope the rice production can be addressed and that the issues with the coco levy fund be resolved already,” Fausto said in a phone interview.

As for the outbreak of coronavirus and stricter border enforcement among countries possibly affecting the country’s agricultural trade, Fausto said this doesn’t worry him too much for now.

“Right now, [discussions] are still more on health issues. This is not like ASF that affects hogs which are farm products,” Fausto said.

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