DOF chief sees challenge in boosting farm output

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 22) — Ahead of the upcoming year-end 2018 agriculture data, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said it is a challenge to revive the farm sector.

"Growth of agriculture in the first three quarters of last year was one half of one percent. And quite frankly that dragged down our gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Had that growth been 2 percent, which is based on the increase of our population, our growth would have been 6.4 percent instead of 6.2," Dominguez said in an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines.

He also virtually challenged Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol to improve the farm sector's performance.

"I think that Manny (Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol) is now focusing on making sure that production of agriculture is increasing because that's basically food and it is in demand... This is a challenge that needs to be met," the Finance chief said.

Dominguez, who had a brief stint as Agriculture Secretary during the administration of the late former President Corazon Aquino, said that raising agriculture output is a priority of the concerned Cabinet secretary.

"It should be the focus of any Secretary of Agriculture," Dominguez said.

According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the agriculture output in the first quarter of 2018 was 1.47 percent. This shrank to 0.07 percent in the second quarter and furtehr contracted to negative 0.83 percent in the third quarter.

Dominguez said as population grew by 1.72 percent annually from 2010 to 2015, agriculture would have to match this at a 2 percent annual growth.

He said there are dire repercussions of not meeting food demand of a growing population, affecting both domestic prices and foreign trade.

"We will have a serious problem because we will have to import food that we can otherwise grow and that will deplete our foreign exchange, that would not allow us to use that money to invest in the Build, Build, Build program or more productive activities," the Finance chief said.

Inflation averaged at 5.2 percent in 2018. Food and non-alcoholic beverages were the high inflation drivers, according to PSA data.

As mitigating measures for food price increases, the government eased the restrictions in importing rice, fish and other essential food products.

Dominguez was Agriculture Secretary from March 1987 to December 1989, and was previously Minister of Natural Resources from October 1986 to March 1987, both under the Aquino administration.

Catch the full interview on January 23, 7 p.m., on CNN Philippines.