It’s not been a good first quarter for Philippines agriculture – exports declined by 4.53% and overall crop production, which accounted for 52.06% of total farm output, contracted by 8.55%. It was a similar story in the fisheries sub-sector, contributing 14.92% of the total, with production falling 5.11%.
And while climate played a major role in delivering these figures – the El Niño conditions and two major typhoons in the second half of 2015 – the sector itself can also take its share of the blame.
While a third of the country’s 41.37-million-strong labour force is employed in the agriculture, the sector only contributes 10.3% to GDP (industry posts 30.9%; services, 58.8%). Critics point to the lack of a comprehensive agriculture planning and strategy framework that would create a more dynamic approach to agribusiness.
Land reform is central to this. But equally important is to view the sector, not as “the landscape” but as a potentially booming form of industry. Japan and South Korea – neither of which have the growing advantages of the Philippines, though both produce crop surpluses – did precisely this and are seen as possible models for the transformation of the sector. Both these countries implemented land reform swiftly and firmly and put agriculture on a par with industry.