Rice shortage, overpopulation traced to lack of dev’t program
Philippine Star, Sunday, April 27, 2008
Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation, said that if only the country has exerted more efforts to put up policies on agriculture and population development, it will not be suffering from problems on overpopulation and rice shortage.
In a press briefing, San Pascual directly correlated the problem on rice crisis on the ballooning population in the country.
San Pascual said that despite a population growth rate of 2.04 percent from the 2.34 growth rate in 2001, the government should not rejoice on the noted decrease because the country is still having a growth rate of about two million babies per year.
Such decrease, according to San Pascual, may also be attributed to the increase of mortality rate or migration.
He said that what is clear is that no population development programs were instituted since 2001 in the country because of the alleged lack of political will of the administration.
“We are eyeing for a candidate in the next election that will support population development programs because this is the main problem that we have to focus on. This is the root of all the social problems that the country is facing right now,” he said.
Earlier, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has classified the Philippines as a low-income and food-deficit country, according to a fact sheet distributed by the PLCPDF.
In 2002, when the classification was released, the country saw record increases in the volume of imported agricultural products including rice.
Studies show that this resulted from liberalized trade policies since the country ratified the General Agreements on Tariff and Trade-Uruguay Round and has become a member of the World Trade Organization in 1995.
Critics argue that trade rules under the WTO are unfair to most developing and least developed countries, which are not capable of competing with the highly advanced production systems of developed countries.
Import surges, especially in agricultural products, cause undue competition with local production dislocating majority of the population with almost 50 percent of them relying on agriculture for a living, the PLCPD paper said.
Agricultural trade deficits were highest after the ratification of the GATT in 1994, further draining the country’s scarce foreign exchange reserves and eroding the country’s food self-sufficiency.
Total agricultural output from 1996 to 2000, as measured by real gross-value added, has minimally increased. For the past six years, the average growth rate of agriculture GVA was a mere 1.38 percent, lower than the average rate of 1.62 percent in the years 1991-1994.
The decline in GVA has led to a decline in the output of agriculture, rendering it incapable of supplying the food and employment needs of the population.
The crop subsector, which accounts for 50 to 60 percent of agriculture’s GVA, has performed poorly, the PLCPD fact sheet added.
Rice production increased in the early 90’s but soon suffered significant declines in recent years through 1997 to 1998, dipping to a negative 24.1 percent in 1998. The same is true for corn production, which posted negative growth rates in the years 1995, 1998 and 2000.
Rice is the country’s major staple food, accounting for 30 to 40 percent of the food expenditures of the lower income groups, and is the main source of livelihood of more than three million small farmers.
It is often called a political commodity because any shortage of its supply in the market or sudden price increase could result in political turmoil as was the case in the rice shortages of the mid-70s and late 80s. — Jasmin R. Uy/MEEV