Gov’t urged to prioritize local food production

Published October 13, 2021, 5:33 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The government was urged to prioritize the production of local food instead of relying more on importation amid staggering global food insecurity.

Citing international and local data, agriculture lobby group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) sounded the alarm over the worsening food insecurity being felt all over the world, which puts the Philippines at more risk given the country’s dependence on food importation.

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The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates’ showed that between 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020.

This, while nearly 2.37 billion people did not have access to adequate food in 2020, an increase of 320 million people in just one year.

Meanwhile, the latest Global Hunger Index has also placed the Philippines at 69 out of 107 countries with the highest hunger rate worldwide. Four indicators were used to measure a country’s hunger index, namely undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality.

A different survey conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS) has also placed the country’s annual hunger rate average in 2020 at 21.1 percent, while another SWS survey conducted from June 23 to 26 showed that around 13.6 percent or an estimated 3.4 million families experienced hunger at least once from April to June this year.

“The global directive of our times is for governments to provide decent livelihoods for the very people who work to produce our food. Unfortunately, the agriculture sector has been the most neglected under this administration,” said SINAG Chair Rosendo So.

“This government is brutally unique for having an agriculture department that pushed for the wanton increase of import allocation of agricultural products and railroaded the reduction of tariff for imported agricultural products,” he added.

So could be referring to this year’s issuances of several Executive Orders (EO) that resulted in lower import tariff for certain farm commodities like rice and pork and in the entry of more in-quota agricultural commodities.

“Future generations will only thrive if protection and support are given to the producers of our agriculture and food systems, there is no other way around. This COVID-19 pandemic has evidently shown it. We can’t afford to lose our farmers and other food producers,” So said.

On the occasion of this year’s World Food Day, SINAG then clamored for the next government that will work for a permanent shift in the agriculture strategy for a sustainable and much localized food production to meet staple food demands, thus ensuring that more food is grown where it is needed.

SINAG also urged the government to make food self-sufficiency and significant rural livelihood opportunities as the explicit starting point of the country’s food and agriculture program; work on the viability and vibrancy of the agriculture industry as the true engine of national development and real economic growth; and understand and strive for the development of the agriculture sector as the real impetus in nation building.

“No country has ever developed, without first developing its agriculture sector to produce staples and the necessary raw materials, beyond what the country needs. Trade and the quest for international market access [in agricultural commodities] are only positive when a country can sufficiently produce its own food and export its surplus production. Dependence on imports for food and other needs only exposes the country to the vagaries of the world market,” So said.

Last year, during World Food Day, Agriculture Secretary William Dar admitted that the Department of Agriculture (DA) tends to be pro-importation and that it needs to get rid of that tendency.

“We need to take care of our local commodity industry. Local production is the priority, and importation is a policy of last resort,” Dar said.

According to the agri chief, the country’s current food adequacy level is just at 80 percent overall. For rice, in particular, the present rice adequacy level is at 86 percent, and the DA wants to grow this to 93 percent.

 
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