(STAR) By Katherine G. Adraneda - Farm output rose 4.87 percent in the first nine months of the year from last year, despite a series of typhoons, the Department of Agriculture said yesterday.

Agriculture sector, which comprises a fifth of the country’s economic output, grew 4.27 percent year-on-year in the the third quarter, slower than the previous quarter’s 6.41 percent but faster compared to the 2.33 percent growth a year ago, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said.

"We were affected by the two typhoons that hit production in the third quarter but their impact on overall performance was minimal,’’ Yap said.

Third quarter growth was led by crops and fishery sub-sectors. He said DA would keep its four to 4.5 percent full-year growth target barring more typhoons that could damage crops in the remaining months.

The fishery sub-sector posted the biggest gain at 7.54 percent with aquaculture as the main booster with its output surge of 13.4 percent.

The crop sub-sector grew 5.76 percent in the first nine months from last year’s negative 0.14 percent.

Crop production represented 46.85 percent of the total agricultural production while fishery made up 25.4 percent. The rest of the subsectors posted gains, except for poultry.

Yap said palay and corn production expanded by 9.69 percent and 15.71 percent, respectively.

The gross returns of the crop sub-sector were recorded at P330.4 billion at current prices, or 15.54 percent higher than last year’s.

"While we acknowledge that the typhoons had impact (on crops), the weather was generally good this year, especially in the first six months of 2006, compared to the weather in 2005 during the same period," he added.

Based on DA’s performance report, the livestock sub-sector grew 2.66 percent in the first nine monhs- fueled largely by the 3 percent growth in hog output.

The gross value of livestock output was at P113 billion at current prices, or 70 percent higher than last year’s.

Yap also attributed the steady growth of municipal fishery to the effective implementation of the Fisheries Code and Fishery Resources Management Areas.

However, commercial fishery decreased by 5.15 percent. Yap said the catch value declined due to higher fuel prices, which cut the number of fishing days from the usual 20-25 days to only 15 days.

Nevertheless, Yap said the fishery sub-sector posted gross returns of P121.8 billion at current prices, or 11.64 percent higher than last year’s.

Poultry production, on the other hand, dropped 0.29 percent during the period from last year’s growth of 1.67 percent. Yap said only chicken egg production posted an increase - at 3.64 percent.

Poultry grossed P75.7 billion at current prices, which was 2.97 percent more than last year’s figure.

Livestock’s share in the total agricultural production was 13.36 percent while poultry sub-sector accounted for 14.32 percent of the total agricultural output, a DA report said.

El Niño effects

Bureau of Agricultural Statistics director Romeo Recide said DA is closely monitoring the impact of the El Niño, or dry weather phenomenon, which started in the fourth quarter and is expected to continue until the summer months of 2007 in the western Pacific.

"The impact of the El Nino will vary from place to place and from crop to crop. Some crops will benefit from the dry spell while others will suffer,’’ Recide said.

In Cebu City, DA said it might resort to cloud seeding if El Niño worsens in 1997.

DA’s Yap said cloud seeding is just one of the measures aimed at easing the effects of the El Niño dry spell. One measure involves distributing to farmers through Philrice a variety of palay grain that requires less water.

He said other steps are being taken such as the repair of important facilities such as catch basins and irrigation systems.

Eduardo Lecciones, DA Region 7 director, said cloud seeding will only succed if the wind can be controlled and if there are "seedable clouds.’’

Without the two factors, Lecciones said cloud seeding will fail because the artificial rains will fall in the wrong places.

Lecciones said another El Niño mitigating measure in Central Visayas is the planting of early maturing varieties and other drought tolerant crops.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration recently issued an advisory on the development of a mild El Niño early next year..

The phenomenon is expected to affect the rainfall patterns in the country. It might also harm domestic water supply, agriculture and hydroelectric power generation. — With Ferliza Contratista, Freeman News Service

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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