Info Resource

Food security
02:23:45 PM | Friday, September 14th, 2018

Author: Marvin A. Tort

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Philippine Statistics Authority.

THE issue, to me, is food security. And, in the Philippine context, this means sufficiency particularly in rice supply. In this line, lawmakers and policy makers as well as those implementing policy should be reviewing and revising policies, agencies, functions, and officials with respect to how they have been contributing to achieving this important objective.

Keep and improve what works, but quickly remove obstructions as well. If, for instance, an agency like the National Food Authority is aggravating rather than improving the situation, and is failing in its objective of promoting and ensuring national food security, then perhaps it has outlived its usefulness and thus must go. The same standard of measure must apply to any policy or official that impacts on food supply.

Allowing the importation of food is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution, to ensuring national food security. Moreover, a policy that relies heavily on free trade in food remains highly susceptible to risks: foreign exchange supply and rate fluctuations; trade disputes; regime changes; and supply disruptions caused by adverse weather conditions or war, famine, or plague, among others.

Data indicate that since the late 1960s, local rice farm yields have actually increased substantially as a result of the cultivation of high-yielding rice varieties, with average productivity reportedly increasing from 1.23 metric tons per hectare in 1961 to 3.59 metric tons per hectare in 2009. The area under irrigation also grew from under 500,000 hectares in the mid-1960s to about 1.5 million hectares in 2009.

But self-sufficiency particularly in rice production is no longer likely, given the rate that we have been losing land to development, seemingly stagnating yields, and given that farmers are now a dying breed. Data from the Philippine Statistical Authority indicate that in second quarter 2018, the harvested area for rice fell to 939,790 hectares, from 947,190 hectares in the quarter in 2017. Yields have also reportedly remained flat in the second quarter at 4.38 tons per hectare.

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