FARM output contracted further in the third quarter (Q3) as livestock and poultry gains failed to offset a decline in crops and fisheries, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported on Wednesday.

The value of agricultural and fisheries production fell by 0.3 percent in July to September, reversing from the 1.6-percent growth posted in the same period last year but narrowing from the 1.2-percent drop posted three months earlier

At constant 2018 prices, production for the period amounted to P412.41 billion from the year-earlier P413.6 billion.

Year to date, farm output remained positive with growth at 0.2 percent. This was down slightly, however, from the January-September 2022 uptick of 0.3 percent.

Fisheries production, which accounted for 14.2 percent of total third-quarter output, posted a 6.1-percent drop to P58.72 billion.

Thirteen of 20 monitored species registered declines, with tiger prawn and bigeye tuna production down the most by 49.0 percent and 41.1 percent, respectively.

Year to date, the value of fisheries production fell by 7.0 percent, worsening from the year-earlier -4.3 percent.

Crop production, which accounted for 54 percent of total output for the third quarter, dropped by 0.4 percent to P222.69 billion from P223.5 billion.

Palay and corn, the country’s main crops, gained by 0.2 percent and 5.0 percent. The former’s growth, however, slipped from 1.1 percent three months earlier while corn rebounded from a 0.8-percent contraction.

Fourteen out of 23 crop categories posted declines, with sugarcane down the most by 26.4 percent. Onion output, on the other hand, grew by 165.1 percent.

Year to date, the value of crop production increased by 0.9 percent, rebounding from the year-earlier drop of 1.0 percent.

Livestock production, meanwhile, still increased by 2.5 percent during the quarter to P66.11 billion, higher than last year’s P64.5 billion. It contributed 16.0 percent to the total value of production in agriculture and fisheries.

Hog and goat output rose by 3.3 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively, but those for dairy contracted by 12.4 percent; cattle, 1.5 percent; and carabao by 0.3 percent.

The value of livestock production for the first nine months expanded by 2.4 percent, improving from the previous year’s 1.8 percent.

Poultry output, with a 15.7-percent share of total production, was valued at P64.89 billion. This was 2.9 percent higher than the P63.06 billion posted in the comparable 2022 period.

Three of the four monitored poultry commodities posted growth, led by chicken eggs at 4.7 percent; duck at 3.6 percent; and chicken at 2.3 percent.

Although lower than last year’s 8.79-percent growth, year-to-date poultry production still increased by 2.5 percent.

The Department of Agriculture said there were strong indications that the sector would contribute positively to the economy despite the third-quarter contraction.

The release of third-quarter farm output data came a day before the announcement of preliminary third-quarter economic growth results.

Analysts expect economic growth to have picked up from the second quarter’s slower-than-expected 4.3 percent.

“As we look at the data more closely, we could see positive signs in the rice, corn and onion harvest as well as in our production of tilapia and galunggong (round scad) — all important food items for the Filipino masses,” Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. said on Wednesday.

Michael Ricafort, chief economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., attributed the decline in output to bad weather and higher prices of various agricultural inputs.

“For the coming months, [an] El Niño drought expected from the fourth quarter of 2023 to [the] first quarter of 2024 could weigh on agriculture,” he added.