Are we food se­cure?

ONCE AGAIN, a food price cri­sis has hit the coun­try. It was so in 1995, in 2015, and this year (2018). What seems to be wrong?

Agriculture - - Contents -

The Na­tional Food Au­thor­ity (NFA), the sole rice im­porter/reg­u­la­tor, failed in its man­date of food se­cu­rity. But that is the short of it. The long-term chal­lenges are more com­pli­cated that they must be un­der­stood by all stake­hold­ers.

There are three main met­rics: af­ford­abil­ity, avail­abil­ity, and food qual­ity. The Econ­o­mist In­tel­li­gence Unit de­vel­oped the global food se­cu­rity in­dex (GFSI), the lat­est was dated Septem­ber 2017. The GFSI work is spon­sored by DuPont.

Af­ford­abil­ity “mea­sures the abil­ity of con­sumers to pur­chase food, their vul­ner­a­bil­ity to price shocks, and the pres­ence of pro­grams and poli­cies to sup­port cus­tomers when shocks oc­cur.” It has six in­di­ca­tors: food con­sump­tion as a share of house­hold ex­pen­di­ture, pro­por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion un­der the global poverty line at pur­chas­ing power par­ity (PPP), gross do­mes­tic prod­ucts per head at PPP ex­change rates, agri­cul­tural im­port tar­iffs, pres­ence of food safety-net pro­grams, and ac­cess to fi­nanc­ing for farm­ers. This com­prises 40 per­cent of GFSI.

Avail­abil­ity “mea­sures the suf­fi­ciency of the na­tional food sup­ply, the risk of sup­ply dis­rup­tion, na­tional ca­pac­ity to dis­sem­i­nate food and re­search ef­forts to ex­pand agri­cul­tural out­put”.

This ex­am­ines how struc­tural as­pects de­ter­mine a coun­try’s ca­pac­ity to pro­duce and dis­trib­ute food and ex­plores el­e­ments that might cre­ate bot­tle­necks or risks to ac­ces­si­bil­ity. The eight in­di­ca­tors are suf­fi­ciency of sup­ply, pub­lic ex­pen­di­ture on agri­cul­tural re­search and de­vel­op­ment, agri­cul­tural in­fra­struc­ture, volatil­ity of agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity

Food qual­ity & safety mea­sures the va­ri­ety and nu­tri­tional qual­ity of av­er­age di­ets, as well as the food safety. It cov­ers the “nu­tri­tional qual­ity of av­er­age di­ets and the food safety en­vi­ron­ment. Qual­ity and safety have five in­di­ca­tors: diet di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, nu­tri­tional stan­dards, mi­cronu­tri­ent avail­abil­ity, pro­tein qual­ity, and food safety.” This com­poses 16 per­cent of the in­dex.

Where is the Philip­pines? The coun­try be­longs to the lower 70 per­cent of 113 coun­tries. Among the eight ASEAN coun­tries, the Philip­pines ranked 6th, ahead of Myan­mar and Cam­bo­dia. Note that the lat­ter are rice-ex­port­ing coun­tries. Ranked first and sec­ond are Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia, both rice-im­port­ing coun­tries. Thai­land and Viet­nam, also rice-ex­porters fol­lowed at third and fourth. In­done­sia was fifth.

Where does the Philip­pines fal­ter? The Philip­pines is last in af­ford­abil­ity, both sec­ond to last in avail­abil­ity, and food safety risk, cor­rup­tion, ur­ban ab­sorp­tion ca­pac­ity, and food loss. This ac­counts for 44 per­cent of the in­dex.

Food se­cu­rity is de­fined as the state in which peo­ple at all times have phys­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic ac­cess to suf­fi­cient and nu­tri­tious food that meets their di­etary needs for a healthy and ac­tive life. – Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion

among the big coun­tries – In­done­sia, Malaysia, Thai­land and Viet­nam.

Out of 19 the in­di­ca­tors, the Philip­pines scored be­low av­er­age in 14: food con­sump­tion as pro­por­tion of house­hold food spend­ing, poverty in­ci­dence, in­come per capita, food safety net, farm­ers’ fi­nanc­ing ac­cess; food suf­fi­ciency of sup­ply, gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­ture on agri­cul­ture R&D, agri­cul­ture in­fra­struc­ture, po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity risk, cor­rup­tion; and diet di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, mi­cronu­tri­ent avail­abil­ity, pro­tein qual­ity and food safety.

Quo­vadis? Rel­a­tive to com­para­tor coun­tries, the Philip­pines failed dis­mally in af­ford­abil­ity. Poverty re­duc­tion is key to food se­cu­rity. Of the 101 mil­lion peo­ple in 2015, some 21.6 mil­lion were poor. Nearly 17 mil­lion of these poor were ru­ral folks with some 14 mil­lion farm­ers and fish­ers. There­fore, these groups ac­count for two-thirds of all poor.

That means in­creas­ing in­comes of farm­ers and fish­ers will solve over­all poverty in­ci­dence. Since rice farm­ers com­prise about a third, there is com­pelling rea­son to ad­dress the re­source needs of the 70 per­cent - the non-rice farm­ers and fish­ers.

Are we food se­cure? From the GFSI anal­y­sis, we are not, com­pared to our neigh­bors, prin­ci­pally from af­ford­abil­ity (in­com­ere­lated), and avail­abil­ity (ac­cess to do­mes­tic and for­eign sup­ply). The for­mer is due in part to high ru­ral poverty; and the lat­ter due in part to low pro­duc­tiv­ity, lim­ited di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion and poor agri in­fra­struc­ture.

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