The Philippines is still primarily an agricultural country despite the plan to make it an industrialized economy by 2000. Most citizens still live in rural areas and support themselves through agriculture. The country's agriculture sector is made up of 4 sub-sectors: farming, fisheries, livestock, and forestry (the latter 2 sectors are very small), which together employ 39.8 percent of the labor force and contribute 20 percent of GDP.
The country's main agricultural crops are rice, corn, coconut, sugarcane, bananas, pineapple, coffee, mangoes, tobacco, and abaca (a banana-like plant). Secondary crops include peanut, cassava, camote (a type of rootcrop), garlic, onion, cabbage, eggplant, calamansi (a variety of lemon), rubber, and cotton. The year 1998 was a bad year for agriculture because of adverse weather conditions. Sector output shrank by 8.3 percent, but it posted growth the following year. Yet, hog farming and commercial fishing posted declines in their gross revenues in 1999. The sector is burdened with low productivity for most of its crops.
The Philippines exports its agricultural products around the world, including the United States, Japan, Europe, and ASEAN countries (members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Major export products are coconut oil and other coconut products, fruits and vegetables, bananas, and prawns (a type of shrimp). Other exports include the Cavendish banana, Cayenne pineapple, tuna, seaweed, and carrageenan. The value of coconut-product exports amounted to US$989 million in 1995 but declined to US$569 million by 2000. Imported agricultural products include unmilled wheat and meslin, oilcake and other soybean residues, malt and malt flour, urea, flour, meals and pellets of fish, soybeans and whey.
One of the most pressing concerns of the agricultural sector is the rampant conversion of agricultural land into golf courses, residential subdivisions, and industrial parks or resorts. In 1993 the nation was losing irrigated rice lands at a rate of 2,300 hectares per year. Small land-holders find it more profitable to sell their land to developers in exchange for cash, especially since they lack capital for seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and wages for hiring workers to plant and harvest the crops. Another concern is farmers' continued reliance on chemical-based fertilizers or pesticides that have destroyed soil productivity over time. In recent years however, farmers have been slowly turning to organic fertilizer, or at least to a combination of chemical and organic inputs.
Environmental damage is another major concern. Coral-reef destruction, pollution of coastal and marine resources, mangrove forest destruction, and siltation (the clogging of bodies of water with silt deposits) are significant problems.
The agriculture sector has not received adequate resources for the funding of critical programs or projects, such as the construction of efficient irrigation systems. According to the World Bank, the share of irrigated crop land in the Philippines averaged only about 19.5 percent in the mid-1990s, compared with 37.5 percent for China, 24.8 percent for Thailand, and 30.8 percent for Vietnam. In the late 1990s, the government attempted to modernize the agriculture sector with the Medium Term Agricultural Development Plan and the Agricultural Fisheries Modernization Act.
The fisheries sector is divided into 3 sub-sectors: commercial, municipal, and aquaculture (cultivation of the natural produce of bodies of water). In 1995, the Philippines contributed 2.2 million tons, or 2 percent of total world catch, ranking it twelfth among the top 80 fish-producing countries. In the same year, the country also earned the distinction of being the fourth biggest producer of seaweed and ninth biggest producer of world aquaculture products.
In 1999 the fisheries sector contributed P80.4 billion at current prices, or 16 percent of gross value added in agriculture. Total production in 1999 reached 2.7 million tons. Aquaculture contributed the most, with 949,000 tons, followed closely by commercial fishing with 948,000 tons, and municipal fisheries with 910,000 tons. Domestic demand for fish is substantial, with average yearly fish consumption at 36kg per person compared to a 12kg figure for consumption of meat and other food products.