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Bicol faces significant decline in agricultural products

By Rhaydz B. Barcia


FOR three consecutive years, fishing production in the Bicol Region has continuously declined, along with agriculture and forestry, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).


Cynthia Perdiz, PSA Bicol regional director, stated that agriculture, forestry, and fishing experienced a decline of 5.4 percent in 2023, a reversal from the 2.5 percent growth in 2022.


Based on the PSA report, most major economic industries posted growth: services (including tourism) by 8.0 percent and industry by 4.4 percent. However, agriculture, forestry, and fishing declined by 5.4 percent in 2023 from a 2.5 percent increase in 2022.


Similarly, the NEDA report indicated that the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sector contracted by 5.4 percent, following a 2.5 percent growth in 2022.


Jasmin C. Zantua, NEDA Bicol officer-in-charge regional director, noted that the gross value added decreased by P4.97 billion, mainly due to agricultural losses from heavy rains, flooding caused by shear line, the restiveness of Mayon, and the decline in fish production. This was highlighted during a press briefing at The Concourse in the city.


“Total fishery production has been on a downward trend since 2020, with the most significant decline of 41.1 percent recorded in 2023. To address these challenges, the Economic Development Committee of the Regional Development Council created a sub-committee on fisheries to improve fish production,” she said.


Ariel U. Pioquinto, BFAR Bicol regional director, admitted that fish production has been declining significantly for three consecutive years. Municipal fishing production fell by 45 percent, and aquaculture declined by 41 percent.


When asked by Bicol Mail about the reasons for the decline, he explained that reliance on sea fishing and issues in aquaculture, particularly in Buhi Lake due to toxicity, are major factors.


“The decline is due to over-reliance on sea fisheries. To increase production, we are focusing on aquaculture and have a resiliency program for typhoon-resistant fish cages. We are also looking to revive the seaweed industry and improve aquaculture, particularly tilapia,” Pioquinto said.


To address the declining fish production, BFAR is collaborating with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to enhance aquaculture in the region.


In addition to fisheries, palay and corn production declined by 4.7 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively, due to heavy rains and various pests and diseases. Pineapple and banana production also decreased by 11.5 percent and 13.5 percent, respectively, due to heavy rains.


As the region continues implementing the Bicol RDP 2023-2028, Zantua said that the second medium-term plan aims to align with AmBisyon Natin 2040, steering the economy back to a high growth path by reinvigorating job creation and accelerating poverty reduction. The plan targets a GRDP growth rate of 7.0-8.5 percent by 2028. For the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sector, the plan aims to modernize agriculture and agribusiness, increasing the average family income of skilled agriculture workers, farm laborers, and fisherfolk.


Under the General Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2024, the DA Bicol budget increased by 34.62 percent.


“The substantial increase in funding will help modernize farming practices, improve production, and foster sustainable and innovative methods to ensure food security. Provinces will strengthen comprehensive rural development, livelihood production, and community development, with the continued roll-out of KADIWA,” Zantua said.


The NEDA and PSA Bicol reported that the region’s economic growth in 2023 decelerated to 4.6 percent compared with the 8.0 percent increase in 2022.


The PSA Bicol reported that the top three fastest-growing industries contributing to Bicol Region’s growth in 2023 were transportation and storage (21.0 percent), other services (19.6 percent), and accommodation and food service activities (18.1 percent).

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