Reforming Philippine Agriculture: The Promise of Farmer-Centered Agribusiness
By: Robert Sanders, Jr.
The picture of poverty in the Philippines remains to be that of a farmer who could not afford to feed his family. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) Poverty Statistics for Basic Sectors point towards farmers and fisherfolk as the poorest in society, tallying a poverty incidence of 34.3% and 34.0% respectively. In 2017, the average farmer earned PhP280.00 per day, amidst increasing prices. Business interest and labor prospects in agriculture have also been falling, leading many to believe that it is an industry in terminal decline. Productivity has likewise been anemic, with an average growth rate of 0.95% from 2014 to 2018. Its GDP share has been on a downtrend, too: total contribution fell from 10% in 2014, to 8.1% in 2018.
Philippine agriculture was valued at PhP814.7 billion by the end of 2018. Half of this came from crops, while 17.5% was from livestock, 16.8% from poultry, and 15.7% was from fisheries. Palay was the most profitable crop, accounting for PhP159.5 billion (39.2% of total crop value), followed by PhP52 billion from corn (12.8%), PhP39.6 billion from banana (9.7%), PhP30 billion from coconut (7.4%), PhP19.5 billion from sugarcane (4.8%), and PhP18.5 billion from pineapple (4.5%).
In terms of government spending, agriculture struggles to find itself as a top priority. The combined fiscal space for DA and DAR took up only 1.6% of the PhP3.350 trillion 2019 national budget. Allocation for the Department of Agriculture (DA) dropped by almost 30% in 2015, with minor fluctuations from then on. The Department of Agrarian Reform’s budget, on the other hand, was halved in 2015, and has since been falling.
This Policy Note by the Institute for Leadership, Empowerment, and Democracy explores this story and the tracks towards farmer-centered agribusiness.