Good economic news in this first quarter

The bulk of agricultural production came from the crops sub-sector. Palay and corn production rose by 12.38 percent and 23.44 percent, respectively. Big production gains were also reported in several other crops, notably, sugarcane, banana, pineapple, and tobacco. We have long nursed hopes for rice self-sufficiency, to free us from the need to import our staple food from Vietnam and Thailand, but we never quite reached the goal. We may be close to achieving it should our rice lands be spared by typhoons and floods later this year.

The other subsectors of agriculture reported similar increases for the first quarter of the year. Livestock posted a 3.32 percent increase over the previous year. The poultry subsector reported 1.88 percent increase, while fisheries reported 7.95 percent.

Overall, the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth was 6.4 percent, according to the National Economic and Development Authority, a bit slower than the previous quarter’s 6.6 percent, but well ahead of fellow ASEAN members Vietnam and Indonesia, both with 5.5 percent, and Thailand, 3.3 percent.

On the same day that the Department of Agriculture came out with its report last week, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) came out with its own good news. Remittances from our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in this first quarter of the year amounted to $7.2 billion, higher by 8.1 percent than the level in 2016. Primary sources of the remittances were our workers in the United States, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Japan, and Hong Kong.

But it is the good news coming from the agriculture that may be on the way to making the big difference in this year’s economic reports. More than its contribution to the total GDP is the impact it will have on the lives of our people in the rural areas.

The biggest problem of the government today is poverty and it is most widespread in the rural areas. The towns and cities will have major infrastructure projects in the coming months, along with manufacturing, the fast-growing business process outsourcing industry, hotels and restaurants, and tourism. The rural areas look forward to a rebounding Philippine agriculture this year, which will be the key to big changes in the lives of the most of our people.

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