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PH ranked 63rd in global food survey

By: Riza T. Olchondra, July 28th, 2012 12:01 AM

SINGAPORE—The Philippines ranked 63rd out of 105 countries surveyed in the Economic Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Food Security Index, which found the country to have relatively affordable and nutritious food but also had challenges in making food accessible to more Filipinos.

In terms of the three pillars measured in the index, the Philippines fared fairly well in affordability (with a score of 43.5 out of the highest score of 100) and food quality (with a score of 54.3), but not so well in availability (with a score of 37.7), experts said at the DuPont Asean Media Forum here.

The Philippines ranked around mid-level in affordability and food quality because prices were not as expensive as in other countries and national food standards were high, said Ramon S. Abadilla, country managing director of DuPont Far East Inc. “The Philippines also ranked well in nutrition in terms of having agencies checking on food nutrition and quality, as well as school feeding and other programs that push agencies and communities to make sure that people, especially children, get nutritious food,” Abadilla said.

However, the country faces challenges in transporting food and making it available to more people. “Programs such as the RoRo (roll-on, roll-off) transport system and having more farm-to-market roads for key areas are addressing the issue of food availability,” Abadilla said.

Generally, lack of infrastructure, rapid population growth, and access to financing were among the challenges for countries that did not fare well in the index, said Pratibha Thaker, EIU regional director for Middle East and Africa. She added that vulnerability to price shocks was another dimension that future versions of the study would highlight.

Hiroyuki Konuma, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) assistant director general and regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, also noted that high economic growth in many countries has not translated to alleviating hunger because there were those who did not benefit from development. “In terms of food, there are now one billion people overweight and yet about one billion go to bed hungry. Aside from food production and distribution, food wastage is also an issue that must be addressed,” Konuma said.

With arable land and water resources shrinking, yields must increase. Yet, at the same time, productivity measures must factor in technology, environmental impact, extreme swings in natural disasters, oil price increases, the effect of renewable energy growth on food output, and rapid urbanization, Konuma said.

DuPont officials said the company commissioned the first-of-its-kind study to address the need to feed a global population, which will reach 9 billion by 2050 from the current 7 billion.

“Using the index which addresses the underlying factors of food security and highlights areas for improvement and reforms, it is intended that governments, academics, NGOs (non-government organizations) and farmer organizations in this region can share a common language and chart a comprehensive food security program,” said Carl Lukach, president of DuPont East Asia.

Recently, the Department of Agriculture reported that it aimed to improve food security by achieving rice self-sufficiency before the end of 2013. So far, the agency said, rice imports have decreased to a projected 500,000 metric tons this year from 2.47 million metric tons in 2010. Irrigation projects combined with better certified seeds promotion were seen to help further improve output in rice, country’s most politically important staple food.

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