In 2020, the Philippines became one of many countries that had to weather through the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many industries were affected, either closing down or focusing on other cost-saving measures.
Among other things, this led to a domino effect that disrupted the supply chain of the entire economy. To this day, the entire world economy is still attempting to weather through the pandemic.
Various plans and strategies have been put forth for how the world might recover and look in the aftermath. In the Philippines’ case, there’s a good chance agriculture will play a huge part in that future.
It’s an Important Part of the Philippine Economy
Agriculture’s role in the Philippines has long been an integral part of the economy. Although other services and industries have somewhat overtaken it, agriculture still makes a significant contribution.
Some examples of these contributions include over 10% of the total GDP as well as 26.7% of the 4.3 million of the overall labour force. At the same time, it is responsible for 86% of total exports for the economy.
Agriculture also serves as the primary provider for jobs in most rural areas where modernization and development have yet to kick in. There are currently few, if any, alternatives to these jobs in those areas.
Thus, it would be arguably hard to shift away from an agricultural focus in many parts of the Philippines—especially given the post-pandemic hardships that may occur.
Agriculture Continues to be Essential to the Philippine Image and Local Tourism
Agriculture has long been linked to the Philippines’ exports in terms of both product and image. After all, when you hear the word tourism associated with the Philippines, what comes to mind?
Some examples that materialize for us would be the distinctive peaks of the Bohol Chocolate Hills all the way to the patterned circles of the Banaue Rice Terraces. Examples like these two are usually the go-to faces of nearly every Philippine tourist campaign.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a mascot to represent the local Philippine populace, the image of Juan wearing a hat while setting off with his Carabao is hard to escape from.
The term agri-tourism is used to denote a type of tourism that focuses on agriculture. Based on the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study in Agriculture (SEARCA) data, the Philippines is one of the world’s top agri-tourism sites.
In a Farm Tourism summit conducted by the group, it was determined that farming heritage, biodiversity, and the welcoming approach of Philippine hospitality were some of the aspects that made Philippine agri-tourism stand out.
Other aspects that made local agri-tourism stand out were sites such as wellness and organic farms. They were mainly located in places such as Laguna, Davao, and La Union.
By 2019, there were over 105 accredited farm tourist sites.
The Philippines’ Department of Tourism had also noticed this trend, leading them to include agri-tourism as a priority tourism product for the future.
Agriculture has Increased in Growth During the Pandemic
It’s no secret that agriculture has lagged with infrastructure and technology when compared to other industries. Yet, amid the pandemic, the sector has shown increasing growth in contrast to the rest of the economy.
Now that the global lockdowns are in effect, the essential nature of having access to food production is undeniable. Fresh produce is in demand everywhere, especially when importing goods can run the risk of unregulated contamination.
It should be pointed out that this growth has not prevented certain food sectors from experiencing loss. Fishery and hog production went down during 2020, but mostly due to other non-related issues.
William Dar, the local Department of Agriculture Secretary, posits more positive growth. He says that the government is targeting a 2.1% growth for agriculture by the end of 2021.
A Greater Focus on Agriculture Can Create Self-Sufficiency
One of the noticeable inconsistencies of the economy is in food supply and distribution. Although agriculture is responsible for 86% of total exports, the Philippines is far from self-sufficient.
Rice importation is at an all-time high, to the point that the Philippines has been categorized as the world’s top rice importer. Even during the pandemic era, this has yet to change.
Even now, the Philippines is primarily self-sufficient in terms of vegetable production. What may surprise many is that the Philippines was actually 93% rice self-sufficient in 2019, meaning we only needed to bridge that 7% gap to call ourselves sufficient in that area.
Presently, the government’s current focus is on food security. The Bayanihan Heal As One Act allows the government to buy directly from retailers to help achieve this aim.
But all these efforts are mostly concerned with short-term food security relief. If we want to achieve long-term food security for the post-pandemic era, self-sufficiency will need to become the next big project.
And that means agriculture needs to become an even bigger priority.
Agriculture Might be the Key to help Recover and Change the Philippines for the Better
We’ve gone over many reasons why agriculture can play a big part of the Philippines’ future.
From its integral role in the labor force to self-sufficiency concerns, there's a lot that needs attention. We’ve even brought up the tourism aspect and how agriculture is intertwined with our image abroad.
From each of these aspects, we can see that there’s real promise in the sector. Especially given the growth that it has experienced during the pandemic.
There’s a real need to develop the technology, business infrastructures, and supply chains for how the agricultural sector can work. Our Filipino farmers are currently challenged by the outdated methods used to maintain the industry in the previous decades.
According to a recent report presented by World Bank director Ndiame Diop, modernizing the Philippines’ agricultural sector is the key to reducing local poverty and recovering from the pandemic.
The report goes on to state that few countries have ever reached a high-income status without significantly changing their food systems first. This means significant investment has to be poured into developing the many aspects of agriculture with government aid.
Public service has to be catered to churn out diverse solutions to unique problems instead of relying on an all-in-one answer to everything.
Once we achieve this vibrant agricultural phase, we will then have more leeway to embrace global and domestic opportunities, helping farmers and other related sectors compete on the international field while ensuring food security for the foreseeable future.
If you wish to help our Filipino farmers, do not hesitate to reach out to us at FarmBox. We help local farmers one box at a time.