A looming food crisis


Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid

We have been in this state of “food insecurity” since the pandemic, but it had been aggravated recently due to acceleration of inflation to 6.9 percent in September 2022, from 6.3 percent in August 2022.

Food prices have increased by 9.4 percent last October, rising from a 7.4 percent gain a month earlier, and pointing to the highest inflation since October 2018.  High costs of fertilizers, fuel and other production and distribution costs explain the sudden rise in food prices.

The food crisis is likewise attributed to the successive typhoons, a series of pandemic lockdowns, and the war in Ukraine which had affected the flow of food imports from Ukraine and Russia. Covid-19 pandemic restrictions had increased food insecurity as they resulted in loss of income and rising food prices.

And the country has had to face an enormous food trade deficit which is about negative two percent of our GDP. In fact, reports indicate that the country is the most food-insecure country in Asia due to its reliance on imported food.

What is worrisome is that we have limited tools to fight inflation, according to economists. Subsidies appear to be effective but this means additional outlay from the State.

According to the Social Weather Stations, over a 10th of all Filipinos or about 2.5 million families suffer from involuntary hunger during the last quarter of 2021.  Seven out of 10 Filipinos cannot afford nutritious food. The number of Filipinos who cannot afford a healthy diet had risen in 2020, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 (SOFI) report. The cost of a healthy diet in the Philippines in 2020 rose to about ₱230. We do not have the latest statistics in 2022, but because of the unexpectedly high inflation during the past two years, we can assume that a healthy diet can be afforded by only the rich and a small percentage of the middle class.

Too, when we talk of food security, it means access to safe and nutritious food, and that we are assured of factors like satisfactory storage and handling conditions, hygiene, and sanitation.

As a 2019 report on Filipino children indicated, 33.4 percent of children aged three to five  years are stunted, 19.7 percent, underweight, and six percent aged five and below, considered “wasted.”  Thus, our children face the threat of a gloomy future if we are unable to come up with viable interventions.

To address food insecurity, as well as climate justice, another priority concern, government must be willing to listen to sober voices who advocate alternatives.   What comes to mind is to reallocate the budget intended for confidential and intelligence funds for food security and climate justice.

Another option to address food security, is “to manage the country’s population growth,” according to economist, Fermin Adriano.

It appears that our government agencies managing our population growth are doing a creditable task, since our annual population growth rate has decreased significantly over the years. In 1969, the fertility rate was 6.4 children, per woman.

Today, the fertility ratio is 2.1 children per woman.  This trend, a slowing down of population growth rate, augurs well for the future of food security and climate justice.

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