The country's agriculture sector must lodge a stronger growth of up to three percent per year if the government wants to surpass its economic targets amid uncertainties globally.

University of Asia and the Pacific economist Bernardo Villegas said the goal of growing the economy by six to seven percent is guaranteed, but the government could attain more if it finally puts importance on the farm sector.

'Eight to 10 percent [gross domestic product] is attainable if we are able to stop the yearly decline in the agriculture sector,' Villegas said.

'The first requirement for the administration is to improve agricultural productivity and attain at least two to three percent growth for the next five to six years,' he said.

Villegas said such growth mirrors that of neighboring economies of Thailand and Vietnam that have been expanding their agriculture sector for the last 20 years and are now exporting major commodities to the Philippines, such as rice and sugar.

The economist admitted that growing the sector is not easy amid challenges, such as the frequency of calamities, as well as various farm diseases.

But Villegas argued that a two to three percent growth is not too much to ask, especially as President Marcos concurrently sits as the agriculture chief.

For the past years, agriculture has been contributing only a tenth to overall GDP.

Latest data also showed that the performance of the farm sector declined by 0.1 percent in 2022, pulled down by the crops and fisheries subsectors.

Finance chief Benjamin Diokno said that agriculture has been the laggard of the economy as the sector continues to be in and out of recession.

'Because agriculture has failed all these years, it also has the biggest potential,' Diokno said.

Further, Villegas maintained that there is room for large scale investment in agribusiness, with more corporations seeing opportunities in the sector.

'We will never attain that agricultural growth if we don't go into consolidation of farms. One to two hectares of land cannot attain productivity unless you put them together,' he said.

'To attain economies of scale, that is the next stage of our agricultural development. If we don't do it, we will never be able to grow our agriculture,' he added.

Diokno, for his part, agreed that agrarian reform has been a major constraint in the productivity of the sector. He admits that the government should focus on titling lands as the first step toward consolidation.

Villegas also called on the government to pursue diversification in order to boost the income of farmers.

'We should have gotten into cacao, coffee, avocado. There are so many other crops that would have been as successful as pineapple and bananas if we were not so focused on rice,' he said.


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