Economy, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing
world sugar prices, ceiba tree, Manila hemp, important exports, farmworkers
In 2000 agriculture, forestry, and fishing contributed 16 percent of the GDP. About 19 percent of the total land area of the Philippines is arable, or suitable for cultivation. The most important subsistence crops are rice, corn, cassava, and sweet potatoes. Rice paddies and cornfields occupy about half of the arable land of the Philippines. Coconuts are one of the most important cash crops, and the Philippines is one of the world’s leading exporters of coconut products, including coconut oil and copra (dried coconut). Bananas and pineapples are also important commercial crops, both of which are grown on large plantations owned by multinational companies. Other crops include sugarcane, abaca (Manila hemp), coffee, tobacco, and mangoes. Livestock on farms include carabao (water buffalo), cattle, chickens, goats, horses, and hogs. Many farmers are tenants, who rent the land and pay the landowner a share of the crop. Other farmworkers include seasonal migrant laborers.
Sugar was the most important agricultural export of the Philippines from the mid-1800s to the mid-1970s. Much of the modernization of the country took place to facilitate the processing and transport of this export crop. For many years, the Philippines had access to a protected and subsidized U.S. market for its sugar. The decline of the sugar industry involved many factors, including the expiration of a U.S. quota system on sugar imports in 1974 followed by a sharp decline in world sugar prices.
Hardwood trees such as mahogany were once one of the country’s most valuable resources, but now this resource is severely depleted. The government banned the export of unprocessed hardwood logs in 1986 in an effort to stimulate domestic processing of raw lumber into finished products. Initially this policy was successful, and products such as wood veneer became important exports. However, illegal logging and unsuccessful reforestation programs depleted the hardwood forests, and output from lumber-processing industries declined. Other forestry industries remain viable because their products are based on more easily renewable sources than hardwood, such as bamboo, rattan, and the ceiba (kapok) tree. Bamboo and rattan are used in making furniture, baskets, floor mats, and other household goods. The ceiba tree, also known as the silk-cotton tree, is cultivated and harvested for its fiber, which is used in the manufacture of finished goods such as insulation and upholstery.
Fishing is an important industry in the Philippines. The average annual fish catch exceeds 2 million metric tons. Nearly half of the total catch is made by municipal and subsistence fishers who operate small boats in shallow coastal waters. The surrounding and inland seas of the Philippines yield crab, sardines, anchovies, tuna, scad, and mackerel. Shrimp, milkfish, and tilapia are raised in artificially created fishponds, in the fish-farming industry known as aquaculture. Much of the total catch is for domestic consumption, and about half of the protein in the Philippine diet comes from fish and other seafood. Shrimp and prawn exports to Japan are a significant source of foreign exchange. The pollution of coastal and inland waters and depletion of fish populations through overfishing have reduced the fishing sector’s productivity in some areas of the Philippines.
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