With the courtesy resignation of Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, thoughts turn to how Philippine agriculture performed under his watch.
Our agriculture growth fell below expectations from 2016-2018, hovering at between 1-2%, well below the 6% growth of the economy.
The 2018 performance was at its worst. at about 0.56% , it fell way below its 2.5% goal, as well as the targeted 2% of economic managers (https://www.bworldonline.com/farm-output-growth-misses-2018-goal/).
This reflects realities on the ground, as retail food prices have remained the same despite the pronouncements and programs showing the distribution of farm machinery supposedly aimed at increasing production. Only rice prices have reduced slightly owing to imports of the staple to keep these stable.
Sadly, this lack of performance in agriculture means that food production has not been enough to meet demand, thereby causing the intermittent price spikes in many commodities and that irritating reality where excess tomatoes need to be thrown in the garbage. These spikes cause inflation to soar.
Thankfully, inflation has now remained on target. Having more food, and keeping prices stable will keep it low.
In the years he served, Pinol claimed that he could still obtain rice self sufficiency and boost production- something that many observers doubted.
In the end, many of his publicized efforts could not push our agriculture performance beyond its measly numbers.
This led to the President publicly cracking jokes about him being “all air” and publicly scolding him about his performance as secretary, fanning resignation rumors since the beginning of 2019 that he was quick to quell in media.
This has now cone to pass with his leaving the Agriculture department.
Moving forward we need higher agriculture and food production to lower prices and meet the demand of a growing nation so that prices remain stable and the fruits of growth are enjoyed. We cannot fail in this. May the new secretary and his team inject the needed vigor in this vital sector.