EDITORIAL - The looming food crisis
(The Freeman) - April 8, 2020 - 12:00am

There is now an initiative from the Department of Agriculture (DA) to ensure food availability and to sustain production given the ongoing threat of COVID-19.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar, in a recent press conference, said the DA is “intensifying the promotion of urban agriculture through the distribution of free vegetable seeds and planting materials nationwide.”

“We need to explore all strategies to ensure that food productivity, availability and sufficiency are attained, particularly in this challenging time,” Dar said.

This is a worthy initiative considering that there has to be enough food given the current crisis.

However, after this crisis, the DA should also help farmers so that any food crisis will be prevented from happening alongside any catastrophe, whether natural or man-made.

Because the truth is that before this COVID-19 crisis even started, our farmers have already been facing many problems.

In many places in the country, more and more farmers are losing arable land to developers of subdivisions and other such projects. Not all areas in the country are suitable for planting rice, and many of these such areas also happen to be prime lots for projects by huge land developers.

Then there is also the stigma that farming is a poor man’s job, one that can barely support a family. Fewer and fewer people are getting into farming, and considering that our population is getting bigger and bigger, this imbalance will likely lead to food insecurity.

We are also being left behind when it comes to innovations in rice breeds and planting techniques and technology. When before we led the way in rice research with our International Rice Research Institute, today we cannot even produce enough rice to feed the nation.

We have to rely on rice imports from our neighbors in the ASEAN --those who used to turn to use for help in their rice programs-- to make sure we have enough supply.

When the COVID-19 crisis is over many problems will be over for many of us, but not for our farmers.

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