'Drastic measures' needed to address food security
MANILA, Philippines – With the country’s rising poverty incidence, government said "drastic measures" are needed to address food security in terms of both production and accessibility.
"We need to really review and undertake drastic measures in addressing food security of the nation as a whole and the poor in particular," Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said in a press conference Friday, March 20.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) earlier identified the rapid rise in food prices and Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) as factors that contributed to the rise of poverty incidence among Filipino individuals and families in the first half of 2014.
The results of the 2014 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed poverty incidence among Filipinos rising to 25.8% in the first half of 2014, from 24.6% in 2013.
The PSA also reported a higher poverty incidence among Filipino families in the first half of 2014 – to 20% from 18.8% in 2013. (READ: Steep prices, Yolanda hike PH poverty incidence in H1 2014)
For food prices, NEDA said low-income and vulnerable families usually spend 20% of their food budget on rice, the prices of which "skyrocketed" by 11.9% in the first half of 2014, from 1.7% in 2013, due to tight supply caused by lean harvests and less rice imports.
Soliman said with food inflation taking its toll on consumers, there is an urgency to look into food security issues. (READ: How food insecurity threatens us)
"Food security is not just production. It is accessibility. Hindi sapat na nagpo-produce tayo, kasi ang nangyari kahit nagpo-produce tayo, kulang yung pino-produce natin, kaya mataas ang presyo," she added.
(Food security is not just production. It is accessibility. It's not enough that we produce, because what happens is even if we produce, the supply is short, which is why the prices are high.)
She admitted that even the monthly subsidy of up to P1,400 under the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) is not enough. The program subsidizes at least 4.4 million Filipinos.
"That’s a 2008 valuation. The P1,400, given the inflation, is actually just P800 today. In short, what we are providing is really bare minimum," she said.
The department is currently studying the possibility of increasing the subsidy, considering the government's cash flow and other needs.
In relation to food security, Soliman said government needs to fast-track its Yolanda rehabilitation and start considering other agricultural products that can be developed in lieu of coconut, which takes longer to recover. (READ: Food security amid a changing climate)
Coconut and rice were the crops most damaged when Yolanda hit Visayas in 2013. – Rappler.com