The truth behind the looming food crisis



The April 12 banner headline of PDI entitled Noy warned of Rice Crisis, sent a strong signal to the government, that this is a serious matter that needs timely and appropriate action given that the Philippines has experienced rice crisis in 1995 and 2008. Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s displeased response to the alleged report of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) should not veer away from the reality that the country has gone into a chronic and systemic rice crisis characterized by production shortages, heavy dependence on rice imports, and a market monopolized by a few rice traders.

The series of protest actions demanding for accessible, safe and cheap rice reverberates the truth that “the issue of the stomach” can be equated to the issue of national security. Hunger can push the peoples’ patience to the limit, bring him to the streets to demand from the Philippine government its primary responsibility to feed its people.

Taking a closer look at the facts and figures of the world food supply, the food crisis of today is being pushed by other commodities such as wheat, maize, soybeans, sugar and even fruits and vegetables compared to the 2008 crisis on rice only. The recurring food crisis is caused by the inevitable impacts of climate change that causing huge losses in agricultural production in the major food producing nations. Countries that are into wheat production, that includes Russia, Ukraine, Kazakshtan, Canada and Australia suffered greatly from droughts and floods resorting to rice as an alternative staple commodity (Rice Facts, A Sleepy Rice Market: The Calm Before the Storm by Samarendu Mohanty). Market speculation aggravates the situation causing sharp increases in prices of these basic food commodities.

The country’s continued reliance on huge rice importation makes it vulnerable to global rice price and supply speculation. The recent spate of oil crisis have been too much of a burden to the ordinary Filipino but another spike in rice prices would trigger another rice crisis in the country resulting in sufferings of immense magnitude.

The Aquino government must institute a policy regime that would reverse the current liberalization of the Philippine agriculture. It is the constitutional role of the government to ensure food security and self-sufficiency of the country. And this can only be realized if genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization are fulfilled. Only through this two-pronged solution can this nation be assured of rice self-sufficiency and food security.

Projects and Extension Officer, AGHAM


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