PH farms getting empty: Agriculture job loss a worrying trend

National Statistician Dennis Mapa offers, the decline was due to “seasonality” since there was a reduction in planting activities during the period.

Cristina Eloisa Baclig

Cristina Eloisa Baclig

Philippine Daily Inquirer


IMAGE Daniella Marie Agacer

December 9, 2022

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s agriculture and forestry industry continues to suffer as it had the largest employment drop in the third quarter of 2022, according to the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Based on preliminary results of the October 2022 Labor Force Survey (LFS) presented last December 7, the agriculture and forestry industry lost 511,000 workers, from 9.73 million in July to 9.22 million in October.

According to National Statistician Dennis Mapa, the huge drop in agricultural jobs was in “planting, transplanting and other related activities, growing of paddy rice, and growing of banana.”

Mapa added that the decline was due to “seasonality” since there was a reduction in planting activities during the period.

Year-on-year comparison by the PSA showed that the industry also had the largest drop in employment, from 9.42 million in October 2022, it has lost 197,000 workers.

The agriculture sector—agriculture, forestry, fishing, and aquaculture industries—had its share to total employment fall from 24.5 percent (9.7 million) in October 2020 and 24.6 percent (10.77 million) in October 2021 to 22.5 percent (10.60 million) during the same month this year.

In terms of skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers in the country, the numbers continue to dip from 14.2 percent (5.7 million) in October 2020 and 12.4 percent (5.4 million) in October 2021 to 11.8 percent (5.6 million) during the same month this year.

In a paper published last year, Roehlano Briones, a senior fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the number of workers in agriculture “has been declining both in relative and absolute terms up to 2019.”

Briones explained that population growth, as well as diminishing farm size and declining incomes in agriculture, have incentivized the “shift out of agriculture.”


Data from the Agricultural Indicators System (AIS) by the PSA showed that the average daily basic wage and salary of agricultural workers increased from P209.32 in 2016 to P274.99 in 2019. But it went down to P270.62 in 2020.

In a statement last year, the Bayanihan sa Agrikultura, Federation of Free Farmers (FFF), Alyansa sa Agrikultura, Coalition for Agriculture and Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP) and Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) identified the lack of land tenure security of farmers as one of the major issues of the sector.

The group noted that around 10 million small farmers own 3 hectares or less of farmland.

“A significant number of farmers in private agricultural lands and in lands of the public domain still do not have secure land tenure,” the groups said.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture and Fisheries (CAF), Philippines holders or farm operators manage around 5.6 million parcels of land, covering at least 7.3 million hectares.

At least 99.1 percent—or 5.5 million holdings or farms covering 6.8 million hectares—in the Philippines is managed by individual proprietors, including households or individual holders or farm operators. Each individual proprietor had an average area of 1.2 hectares.

Corporate holdings or farms held an average area of 97.1 hectares, while holdings or farms operated by cooperatives controlled 92.5 hectares on average.

The PSA-led census also detailed that at least 46 percent of the country’s total holding or farm parcels were already fully owned by holders or farm operators.

According to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), during the previous months, hundreds of farmers have been granted land ownership after a wait of many years.


In March 2021, 149 families received an 81.85-hectare government-awarded hacienda in Pili, Camarines Sur after a 27-year ordeal against a private corporation. In the same month, 249 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) from Capiz province were awarded a total of 398 hectares of agricultural land.

The following month, DAR said 3,500 ARBs from SOCCSKSARGEN have also received Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) from the department.

While several parcels of farmland have already been given to some farmers, there are, unfortunately, portions of land that had been planned or already converted.

Based on data by DAR, a total of 97,592.5 hectares of agricultural land—the size of Metro Manila and Cebu City—were approved for conversion to non-agricultural purposes between 1998, the year when the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Act took effect, and 2016.


The approved conversion applications in DAR regional provinces consist of 80.6 percent land in Luzon, 7.8 percent in Visayas, and 11.6 percent in Mindanao.

Pending applications for conversion, agricultural land reclassified by the local government units, and illegally converted lands are, however, not included in the figures.

In July, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) representative and former agriculture chief Rafael Mariano urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to implement a two-year ban on land conversion and declare a moratorium to ensure the steady production and supply of grains.


Mariano said the DAR had already identified “shrinking agricultural land as among the challenges faced by the sector.”

“Issuing an EO prohibiting land-use conversion for at least two years will effectively protect more than 4.84 hectares of agricultural lands awarded to farmer-beneficiaries,” said Mariano.

During plenary deliberations on the 2023 budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) last month, Senators Raffy Tulfo and Cynthia Villar had a heated exchange over the conversion of farmlands into residential or commercial areas.

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