EDITORIAL - Long-term food security

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Long-term food security

When prices rise, the uptick can be reversed or at least eased if the supply is increased. This is what the government is hoping for as food imports are ramped up after the inflation rate hit a nine-year high of 6.4 percent in August.

So far, the government is increasing rice imports and moving to allow importation of fish for the wet markets. More imported vegetables are also set to come in. The expectation is that flooding the market with supplies can bring down prices of food – the biggest factor, together with non-alcoholic beverages, behind the high inflation rate.

The importations have drawn protests from farmers and fisherfolk, who point out that there are other factors driving inflation in the food sector, such as hoarding, price manipulation and the cost of delivering goods from farms to markets. In the National Capital Region, some of the biggest increases in food items have been seen in vegetables from the Cordillera highlands, which can take from six to eight hours to transport to Metro Manila.

Small-scale farmers and fishermen, who are among the poorest Filipinos, worry that flooding the market with imports can kill local livelihoods in low-income communities. Agriculture and fisheries experts have warned that if the trend persists, it can lead to a further dwindling of the number of young Filipinos who want to engage in farming and fishing.

They point out that supply is best augmented through increased local production. This, however, cannot happen quickly enough for the government to temper the inflation rate. The government must strike a delicate balance between the needs of consumers and local producers especially those in the marginalized sectors. If the government is determined to push ahead with food importations, it must also intensify efforts to increase local production of basic food items. This lies at the heart of long-term national food security.


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