Exports of agriculture and fishery products have provided the bright spot to the otherwise bleak picture of the country’s trade numbers.

The Department of Agriculture said export shipments of agri-fishery products from January to March 2020 grew by 12 percent to $1.31 billion, from $1.17B recorded for the same period in 2019, citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

“This is a complete opposite of the total Philippine exports during the period, which dropped by 5.16% to $25.73B.”

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said “this is a complete opposite of the total Philippine exports during the period, which dropped by 5.16% to $25.73B.”

The biggest agri-fishery export earners were banana, coconut oil, canned tuna, fresh or dried pineapples, desiccated coconut, other prepared fruits (e.g. banana chips), carrageenan, prepared or preserved pineapples, and cigarettes containing tobacco.

Banana was the top farm export commodity in terms of value, with over $489 million shipped out from January to March this year.

The DA said banana shipments bounced back to pre-enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) levels, although with minimal growth at 1.74%, due to the increase in buying prices of the fruit bound for China.

This is followed by coconut oil, with total shipments for the period valued at $232M, higher by 5.4% from the previous year’s $220M.

Exports of shrimp and prawns reached $77M, although this is 17.2% lower than the 2019 value of $93.6M.

The DA, however, was quick to point out the agri-fishery sector was not yet affected by the effects of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic during the period in review as the ECQ was imposed only during the last two weeks of the first quarter.

The country’s major trading partners Japan, China, South Korea and the European Union also did not impose import restriction policies at that time.

Exports of pineapple products (i.e. canned, juice and concentrate) also recorded increases with total shipments valued at $97M.

“The sector is seen as a major foreign exchange earner.”

Shipments of sugar, one of the country’s traditional export commodities, increased by 10.7% to $1.66M from $1.5M a year ago.

“The DA will work hard to push agriculture exports in the succeeding months as the sector is seen as a major foreign exchange earner with the ability to provide employment to a huge part of the country’s population,” Dar said.

“Agri-fishery exports will continue to play a major part as the country progresses to the ‘new normal’ at the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the agriculture chief stressed.

“We need to generate revenues and employment, and agriculture is the best sector to answer to this call,” the agriculture head added. 

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