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Country profile - The Philippines


The Philippines, one of the largest island-groups in the world with over 7,100 islands and a wealth of natural resources, is prone to seismic and volcanic activity. The mountainous island archipelago is of volcanic origin, forming part of the 'Pacific Ring of Fire', and has a tropical climate with high annual temperatures, humidity and rainfall. Dense mangrove swamps line many coasts and many of the islands are dominated by tropical rainforest and fertile plains.


The agricultural sector employs about 30 per cent of the population but contributes only 12 per cent of GDP. Almost 5 million farmers cultivate 9.7 million hectares, or about 30 per cent of the total land area of the country. Coconut, rice, maize and sugarcane are the top four crops cultivated. Although the economy is moving away from agriculture to services and manufacturing, the sector is crucial to realising the Government's target of becoming food self-sufficient by 2013.

Rice is the most important staple food crop (© IFAD/GMB Akash)
Rice is the most important staple food crop
© IFAD/GMB Akash

Rice is the most important staple food crop. Yields have increased substantially since the 1960s as a result of high-yielding varieties, but per hectare yields are generally low in comparison with other Asian countries. Despite being the eighth largest rice producer in the world, rapid population growth, poor road and irrigation infrastructure, and limited suitable land to expand production, mean that the country is also one of the world's largest rice importers. From a record of 2.45 million tons in 2010, however, rice imports were reduced to 860,000 tons in 2011.

Between 2004 and 2010, agriculture and fisheries exports rose from US$2.5 billion to US$4.1 billion. Coconut was traditionally the major export earner, but with depressed prices for copra and other coconut products, production has decreased, particularly as trees have not been replaced. Banana, coconut oil, tuna, pineapple, tobacco and seaweed are the top exports. High quality robusta and excelsa coffees are produced in the country but very little is exported.

Demand for commodities such as seaweed has increased (© Jason Gutierrez/IRIN)
Demand for commodities such as seaweed has increased
© Jason Gutierrez/IRIN

According to the Government, agricultural growth and productivity are constrained by the high cost of production inputs. In the Philippines, fertilisers and pesticides typically account for 20-30 per cent of production costs, while livestock feeds account for about 70 per cent. High transportation costs, post-harvest losses, inadequate irrigation infrastructure, and limited access to credit have also been identified as barriers to growth.

In 2011, the agriculture sector grew by just over two per cent. Recovering from drought in 2010, significant gains in production in 2011 were recorded for palay (unhusked rice) (6%), maize (9%), sugarcane (58%), mung bean (22%), tobacco (11%) and rubber (8%). According to the Department of Agriculture, the use of quality seeds, rehabilitation of irrigation facilities, improved fertilisation, a reduction in pests and diseases, favourable weather conditions, increases in area harvested, and higher prices all contributed to the increases.

Fisheries production dropped in 2011 by four per cent. Rough seas and strong winds due to successive typhoons, higher fuel costs and depletion of some fish species like tuna and Indian sardines contributed to the decline. However, aquaculture production (milkfish, tilapia, shrimp, carp, oyster and muscle) is expanding, while demand for commodities such as seaweed has increased.

Deforestation is an acute problem (© FAO/Noel Celis)
Deforestation is an acute problem
© FAO/Noel Celis

Environmental challenges

Deforestation is an acute problem. Between 1990 and 2005, the Philippines lost one-third of its forest cover and the current deforestation rate remains at around two per cent per year. Despite government bans on timber harvesting in the 1980s, illegal logging continues and timber is regularly smuggled to other Asian countries. Slash and burn agriculture, collection of fuel wood and rural population expansion also contribute to deforestation, which has been increasingly blamed for soil erosion, river siltation, flooding and drought.

In 2010, the Climate Change Vulnerability Index ranked the Philippines as the 6th most vulnerable country to climate change, out of 170 countries. Changing rainfall patterns, rising temperatures, increasing frequency and intensity of typhoons and dry spells, and sea level rise are projected as a result of climate change. Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng resulted in damage to the agriculture and fisheries sectors estimated at US$580 million in 2009. Meanwhile in some parts of the country, rising sea levels are already causing salt water intrusion.

Government priorities

Despite positive growth and gains in productivity, there has been almost no change in the welfare of almost 6.4 million people who are dependent on agriculture and fisheries. In the latest national Development Plan, the Government states that improving productivity and efficiency in the agriculture sector is critical to maintaining the affordability of food and reducing poverty.

The Government is committed to achieving food self-sufficiency by 2013 (© FAO/Noel Celis)
The Government is committed to achieving food self-sufficiency by 2013
© FAO/Noel Celis

To improve food security and rural incomes, the Government is working to improve rural infrastructure (including roads, post-harvest facilities and markets), strengthen extension systems, improve access to credit, increase investment in research, and encourage investment from the private sector. The Government is also promoting integrated water resource management, sustainable land management, restoration of fishing grounds, and strengthening crop and fisheries insurance schemes, to increase resilience to climate change.

Reaffirming their commitment to achieving food self-sufficiency by 2013, the Government has increased its 2012 agriculture budget by 50 per cent compared to last year. The money will be spent on constructing and rehabilitating irrigation systems and repairing roads, in addition to boosting the budgets of national programmes designed to boost production of rice, maize, vegetables, fisheries and livestock.

Statistical information
  • Country: Republic of the Philippines
  • Capital: Manila
  • Area: 300,000 sq km
  • Population: 103,775,002 (2012 est.)
  • Population growth rate: 1.9% (2011 est.)
  • Life expectancy: 72 (2011 est.)
  • Ethnic groups: Tagalog 28.1%, Cebuano 13.1%, Ilocano 9%, Bisaya/Binisaya 7.6%, Hiligaynon Ilonggo 7.5%, Bikol 6%, Waray 3.4%, other 25.3%
  • Languages: Filipino (official; based on Tagalog) and English (official); eight major dialects - Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinan
  • Inflation: 5.3% (2011 est.)
  • GDP purchasing power parity: US$393.4 billion (2011 est.)
  • GDP per capita: US$4,100 (2011 est.)
  • GDP composition by sector: agriculture: 12.3%; industry: 33.3%; services: 54.4% (2011 est.)
  • Land use: arable land: 19%; permanent crops: 61.67%; other: 64.33% (2005)
  • Land under cultivation: coconut (3.3 million ha), rice (2.5 million ha), maize (1.4 million ha), sugarcane (0.4 million ha)
  • Major industries: electronics assembly, garments, footwear, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, wood products, food processing, petroleum refining, fishing
  • Agricultural products: sugarcane, coconuts, rice, corn, banana, cassava, pineapple, mango; pork, eggs, beef; fish
  • Natural resources: timber, petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver, gold, salt, copper
  • Export commodities: semiconductors and electronic products, transport equipment, garments, copper products, petroleum products, coconut oil, fruits
  • Export partners: China 19%, US 13.4%, Singapore 13.2%, Japan 12.8%, Hong Kong 7.6%, Germany 4.2%, South Korea 4.1% (2010)

Date published: April 2012


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