The Asian Development Bank has urged the Philippines and its neighbors to invest more in agriculture, saying that food production must increase to avoid supply shortage and steep price increases over the medium term.
The ADB made the call given projections that rural population in many countries, including the Philippines, would start exceeding urban population in 2015. This means fewer and fewer people will be working in the agriculture sector but more will be dependent on it for food.
Urban population is expected to surpass rural population due to the migration of people from the rural areas to the cities and the conversion of agricultural land to commercial/industrial.
The ADB likewise called for increased investments in areas that benefit the agriculture sector—particularly in science and technology, transportation, and farm-to-market infrastructure.
Lourdes Adriano, in charge of the ADB’s rural development and regional sustainability sector, said in a briefing Monday that based on the global benchmark, public investments in agriculture should be at least 2 percent of a country’s gross domestic product to help sustain food security over the medium to long term.
In the case of the Philippines, Adriano said, government spending on agriculture hovered just about half a percentage point of GDP in 2010. The figure was expected to have risen over the past two years, she said, but was estimated to be still short of the global benchmark.
“We need the agriculture sector to shape up to feed the growing population,” Adriano said.
ADB’s call for higher investments in the agriculture sector is contained in its recently published book “The Quite Revolution in Staple Food Value Chains.”
In the book, co-authored by Bart Minten and Thomas Reardon, ADB said there would be significant increases in the prices of staple food, including rice, if the problems on supply would not be addressed.
“Asia’s ability to keep food prices in check and ensure long-term regional food security will require the region’s farm to market supply chains to become more efficient and cost-effective,” the ADB said.
Adriano said that for the Philippines, one way to increase food supply would be to invest more in Mindanao. She said the southern part of the country could be a major producer of food given its resources, but necessary investments in infrastructure and technology must be made.