Solon calls for government action to ensure domestic food security

PHL one of top 25 nations to go hungry due to food price surge

Aside from the skyrocketing cost of fuel, the country’s next biggest challenge is the looming global food crisis and unless the government moves rapidly to increase domestic food production, the Philippines might fall into a severe food shortage situation.

This was the assessment made by Iloilo Rep. Jerry Trenas as he cited the latest Global Economic Strategy report issued by Nomura, the largest global investment bank in Asia, which showed that the Philippines is the 13th nation to have the highest degree of food price surge vulnerability.

Trenas, chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, said the government should now start directing its policies on sustainable food security program as economic experts around the world are raising the alarm bells for a worsening global food surge that can cause widespread starvation in countries like the Philippines.

Trenas said that although the Philippines is considered as an agricultural nation, its food consumption is largely dependent on imports, including its staple food which is rice. He added global events, climate change, the booming economy of China, growing population and changing diet patterns are also working together to push for a global food price surge.

“Most of the things that we eat and drink, from our early morning pandesal and coffee, to the rice and beef steak tagalog that we eat for lunch have imported components, from the flour that was used to make the bread and the feed that was used to feed the cows. With a very weak economy, the Philippines is completely vulnerable to the rising cost of food commodities around the world,” Trenas said.

Trenas made the call as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) declared that global food prices rose for the eighth straight month in February as it warned that unexpected spikes in oil prices could exacerbate an already precarious situation in food markets.

This announcement of FAO coincided with the recent findings of the Nomura which sees another multi-year food price rise, “partly because of burgeoning demand from the world’s rapidly developing – and most populated – economies, where diets are changing towards a higher calorie intake.”

The 82-page Nomura report said a global food price surge is looming large because “the supply side of the food equation is being constrained by diminishing agricultural productivity gains and competing use of available land due to rising trends of urbanization and industrialization, while supply has also become more uncertain due to greater use of biofuels, global warming and increasing water scarcity. “

Nomura listed the Philippines as the 13th among 80 nations which is most vulnerable based on its Nomura Food Vulnerability Index (NFVI) with Bangladesh as the most vulnerable and New Zealand as least vulnerable to high food prices.

Trenas also cited the observation of Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist who predicted the U.S. financial crisis, which said that surging food and energy costs are stoking emerging-market inflation that can spark civil unrests similar to what happened in Egypt and now in Libya.

“We should take this warnings very seriously because a hungry nation is an unstable nation. People are restless when they are hungry,” Trenas said.

Trenas said apart from shrinking land areas that are being tapped for food production and the diminishing number of people who are in the food production business, the food price surge is also caused by China’s booming economy, with its 1.3 Billion population getting the biggest share in terms of global food consumption.

And with it’s huge dollar reserves, Trenas said the China can easily out-bid any nation in getting on to of the priority list on food and fuel imports, leaving the Philippines at the bottom of the queue in the event of global food and fuel shortage.

“ The solution therefore if we want to survive a seemingly inevitable global food crisis is for us to be able to sustain our own domestic requirement. The government and even Congress should act fast in strengthening our food security program,” Trenas said.