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The emerging food crisis: Is it a problem or a consequence ?* From here on, concern on food self-sufficiency will preoccupy on whoever is in the government. In contrast with the 20th century, when food prices fell, the 21st century would see food prices rise . In early January this yea(2011), the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that the Food Price Index had attained an all-time high in December, which surpassed the price surge in 2007-08. The December record had been breached in January as prices increased by an additional 3% and food prices are still increasing. Everyday, the National dailies do not fail to tackle the concerns . The world is just one poor harvest away from chaos in world grain markets. Food prices will rise to previously unimaginable levels. Food riots will multiply, political unrest will spread and governments will fall said by one food amnalyst. Of the top 25 countries they found endanger of food crisis, the Philippines ranked 13th, cited by a Japanese investment bank Nomura To better address the emerging food crisis, it is undeniably necessary to have a continuing dialogue with the intention of shaping polices and thinking . Just a week ago(April12,2011) ,almost all national dailies front pages carried the National Intelligence Coordinating Council ( NICA ) concern - the rising costs of basic commodities and a shrinking rice supply the danger of food crisis in this country is becoming an issue of national security . A day after these front page news came out, the Sec.of Agriculture denied that there was no such NICA report. In his Radio interview , and also quoted in the dailies , he claimed that we are having good harvest this summer. Those spreading the rumor about rice shortage are presumably those who wanted that we import more rice which is detrimental to our rice farmers.. What are the main factors causing the food crises? It is important that the public know the major interconnected factors that threaten food supplies causing food prices increase .They are as follows:

1. Climate change .It is irrefutable that climate change (drought, flood) is a major factor
That climate change has affected global supplies and prices of food (wheat, sugar, soybean) and it is also affecting the prices of rice and other food items can not be denied. If the drought and scorching summer last year (2010) that happened in Russia will happen in the United States that produces 40% of corn and supplies 70% corn export, prices of food will rise to unpredictable level. But blaming

the weather as the culprit of our impending food crisis will not help as we can not tame the mind or spill the water as the song goes.

2. Biofuel. In 2006-2007, 75% of the food prices increase was mainly attributed to the use
of food crops in producing biofuel .Again, this April 8, 2011 (Friday, PDI A18), the UNFAO had reiterated once more that biofuel is fueling food prices increase. Thailand cassava flour, a direct substitute for wheat flour up to 30%, is exported in Europe mainly for bioethanol production. But why food sources for biofuel? It was the former US President Bush who said lets transfer our dependence in Middle East oil to the Midwest corn. A political pitch which turned hollow as corn biofuel had simply sustained American addiction to fuel energy (bio-energy, or fossil fuel oil energy).It did not positively contribute to energy supply as the energy gain from corn ethanol is minimal or even negative if all the indirect cost energy to produce ethanol from corn are included .

3. Oil prices .What is not known to many is how oil price is affecting food production and
food prices. Oil prices directly and indirectly affect food production. Many field operations (tillage, threshing, hauling/transport) are oil based. Indirectly affecting food productions are the inputs particularly fertilizer as 1 kg of nitrogen fertilizer consumed 1.80 li diesel oil equivalent (LDOE) to manufacture plus the post-manufacture energy bill, it consumes 2.15 LDOE when it reaches the Philippine soil. This explains why the prices of fertilizer increase as the oil price increase. To produce 1 ton of unmilled rice requires 18-20 kg Nitrogen (N) which translates to 215 LDOE. . At $111/barrel, the price of urea is about P1,300/kg. If the price of oil zoomed up to $150/barrel, the price of urea will be at minimum of P2000/bag. The farmers will not be able to apply 100 kg N to produce 5 tons/ha. Yield will decrease proportional to the decrease in N-fertilizer input. N-fertilizer is 50-60% of crop yield as native soil fertility is low. A 50% decrease in fertilizer use will translate to 25-30% decrease in yield. As a whole, this will be about 4.0-4.8 million tons of unmilled rice if prorated equally in the 4 Mha (16 Mtons of paddy rice). If this happened, it is far worst than the most severe El Nio that hit the country . 4. Importation. Importing rice is a short term solution or stop gap measure. It is an action that any President of the Philippines will do if there is shortage . But the danger of relying on food import is clear. One, there are other countries in the region (China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea) which have more money. Money-rich countries will propel greater food price

increases should they fail to produce enough food for their citizens and resort to importation. Competing with them, will deplete the countries savings. Indonesia is importing 3.2 million tons dethroning Philippines as the largest rice importer (Indonesia, has 230 Million population). What if India (1.11B population) and China (1.3 B population) suddenly import rice from rice surplus countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar). There are many mind bungling issues on importation. Why did we import huge amount of rice in the previous decades. In 2008, the country imported 2.42 million metric tons (see Table 1) which made the Philippines the highest rice importer in the world. The data on per capita consumption is instructive. In 2000-2001, our per capita rice consumption was only 103 kg . By 2008, it increased to 128 kg. This coincided with the year that the Philippines had recorded the highest rice import. In 2009, however , the per capita consumption decreased to 119kg/cap and our rice importation was only 1.755 million metric tons . The 21.5 Mtons target yield considered 100 M Filipinos consuming rice at 139.5 kg/cap. On the population @ 100 million as the consumption base , it should be pointed out that there are 11 million Filipinos abroad and about 7-10 million are corn eaters. On the per capita consumption@ 139.75 kg/cap, it is true that there maybe some Filipinos (those who are working in the fields, athletes) who eat as much as 140 kg/cap or even more! But what about the young children ages 1-10 years old; the senior citizens; males and females who are so concerned on their weights? It is very crucial to examine whether we are using correct data.

5. Rice yield To achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2013, the country must increase yield from 3.6 tons per ha to at least 5 tons per ha. Consider the following data :Rice physical area =2.7 million ha ; Irrigated area =1.9 million ha, Rainfed area = 1.3 million ha ( BAS (2010).For the last 5 years (2005-2009), the average yields for irrigated and rainfed areas, respectively, were only 4.3 and 3.0 tons/ha or on only 3.6 tons/ha for the 2 areas (Table 2) Even in good yielding year, the national average yield for irrigated areas (1.4 Mha) was only 4.3 tons/ha (2008). This yield was also attained when the price of fertilizer was still low. What about the rainfed areas? The highest yield so far was 3.27 tons/ha. Rainfed areas occupy 48% of the total area (1.3 Mha 2.7 Mha). Rainfed areas are

subjected to varying moisture regime even without the effect of climate change. There is 1.0 ton difference in yields between irrigated and rainfed. Five( 5) tons/ha yield is achievable as it is already being achieved by a number of farmers. In fact, we have farmers harvesting as high as 8 tons/ha or higher . To obtain 5 tons/ha average yields for the 4.2 million hectare cropped areas, we need to address several constraints. They include: BIOPHYSICAL/TECHNICAL(Water shortage --- lack of / deteriorating irrigation facilities, El Nio ,declining soil fertility and degraded soils (uplands),pests and diseases, technological efficiency at farm level --- low , Shrinking area planted to rice ), SOCIOECONOMIC (farmers limited agribusiness management skills ,limited / unavailable capital ,low production incentives ) and INSTITUTIONAL factors( deteriorating extension support services, weak institutional support ). 6. Water and rice production If our net consuming population will reach 100 Million (less the OCWs) and even if our per cap consumption is only 103 kg, still we need about 10.3 million tons of milled rice(15.85Mt unmilled rice ) and an additional 2.3 Mt for seeds, feeds, wastes, and 15 days buffer stock; or a total of 18.15 million tons unmilled rice. Where shall we get all the water needs of producing 18.15 million tons of rice requiring 90.75 billion tons of water ? Water is essential (1 kg of rice consume 3,000-5,000 kg water).With irrigation, water is assured in the various growth stages. Expanding the irrigated areas, could increase yield (1 ton more/ha). But there are 3 things to consider in putting more irrigation facilities. One, is the huge costs involved to construct irrigation facilities which now costs about P500,000/ha and it may even increase. Irrigating 0.5 Mha needs PhP 250 Billion. Two, is how to prevent further conversion of prime irrigated areas into other uses (residential, commercial areas). Three, the ideal ratio of forests and agroecosystems is 50: 50 (Do reforestation now but the effects will be 10 years after !) The condition of our watersheds is manifested by the effectivity of our irrigation systems. Many of our irrigation systems are simply river water diversion (Laguna, Iloilo dams). This explains why during prolonged drought (El Nio),the irrigation systems have insufficient water to irrigate rice fields. 6. Support to farmers. The current rice self-sufficiency program of the government is in the right direction. Direction setting, however, is different from accomplishing. As pointed out in many fora, farmers are unhappy with the support they get from the consumers and the government. The retail price of rice @ P34/kg should translate to P17/kg when bought to the farmers direct from their

threshers or P20/kg, dry (12-14% moisture content). At harvest time, traders buy rice from the farmers as low as P11/kg when the breakeven price is about P13/kg (this crop year 2011). For 2 croppings, these had happened. The low farm gate price of rice further deepens the heavy indebtedness of our farmers . This will make them do input costs cutting decisions as an adaptive measure. They will not apply sufficient fertilizers. Yield will be lower. It is important to address the unjust price of rice paid to our farmers. The reasons are as follows : 9 out of 10 farmers are rice farmers. This means that rural economy revolves around rice. The low price of rice sends farmers to the quagmire of poverty. Hence, when we talk about poverty, it is a rural phenomenon. Migration is from rural to urban. What can be done ? Our view is that the looming food crisis should be addressed in the short, medium, and longterm, for the benefits of the present and future Filipino generations. For these wet season cropping season, let us help the farmers by stabilizing a just price at harvest time . Some possibilities are as follows : 1. Those who could afford should purchase in advance their rice requirement (10 cavans at P20/kg = P10,000 @ 1 million families). This is about P10 billion pesos money infusion to the farmers which is 30% of the optimum budget necessary to contain the rice traders price manipulation at harvest time. 2. Private corporations who employ more than 400 employees buy the rice requirement of their employees. At 1 cavan of rice/month x 400 = 4,800 cavans/yr or 7,500 cavans of unmilled rice @ P20/kg. If we have 5,000 corporations who will respond to this call, this translates to P37.5 billion pesos money infusion to directly purchase rice from the farmers through their cooperatives. This money (P37.5 billion) is roughly the needed amount (25-30%) required to cushion the traders control on the price of rice during harvest season (Oct to Nov and March to April). 3. On the production side, there are many who are now advocating Go organic/ sustainable agriculture .We now have an Organic Agriculture Act (R.A. 10068). But going organic is not like going out for picnic ! In addition to the many negative effects of Chemical agriculture , it had brought about agricultural addiction. An addict needs to be rehabilitated. Going OA/SA needs also soil rehabilitation or soil fertility restoration. An indicator is soil organic

matter which is 40-60% lower than before. Restoring it is slow and gradual. Experiences showed that 3-5 years are required to re-build the soil. OA/SA is for the medium to long term assuming farmers had started already. The practical thing to do is to adopt soil building and cost reducing farming practices. Two practices can be done immediately:1)Implement nationwide prohibiting rice straw burning. 1 ton straw = 1 bag urea equivalent ;about 3 tons/ha rice straw are simply burnt or about 12 million tons in the 4.0 M ha harvested areas; 2)Integrate urban waste recycling (the biodegradable waste) to provide partially the organic nutrient requirements of our fields. More than 50% of our population are in the urban areas. However , we can expect our farmers to rebuild or restore soil fertility if the land is theirs . The full scale implementation of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform with Reform (CARPER)should be done. 4. There should be SEED and equipment support to OA. As farmers are mostly into monoculture, they have lost the bahay kubo crop species. Seeds support to diversified agriculture must be designed. Farmers must be re-trained on seed propagation of various seed lots (orthodox and recalcitrant) and appropriate planting materials (cuttings, tubers, roots) of various crop species. The shift to diverse agriculture requires re-landscaping or re-designing the farms to achieve the desired ecosystem or soil condition of the various crops species to be grown by the farmers. Equipment for soil digging (backhoe), water reservoir construction (bulldozer, loader) must be made available to farmers. The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) should include in their respective budgetary requirements farm machineries for farm landscape improvement. This is also necessary so that nutrient cycling (crop + livestock) and water re-use and conservation (crop + livestock + aquaculture) are integrated in the farm landscape. 6. There must be Spending audit as huge sums of money have been poured into agriculture from infrastructure like irrigation to subsidies like seeds and fertilizers.

Should it mean then that many Filipinos will go hungry as an aftermath of the emrging food crisis? No ! But anchoring our food caloric sufficiency on rice alone is insufficiency. We could easily be food caloric energy sufficient with our current production systems by

1. Mixing 15% (1.5 million tons) white corn, then, we easily satisfy the demand. Earlier studies showed that corn can be mixed with our rice up to 30%.We produce about 7 million metric tons of corn But these are mainly yellow corn. We should have a program of growing white corn for food. Corn are mostly grown in upland rainfed areas. Growing corn in lowland irrigated areas expands the service areas 3 to 4 times. 2. Temper our white rice consumption and shift to brown rice.( American scholars John Cavanagh and Robin Broad joined us in the advocacy on brown rice ). Our simple estimate is that even if we only mix 50% brown rice to our well milled rice, then, we could be self-sufficient in rice (Brown rice leads to 8-10% increase milling recovery and 30-40% reduction in rice consumption).Brown rice is more nutritious than well milled rice. 3. Eat more vegetables and fruits. The Filipinos consume the lowest veggies (40kg/cap) while the Chinese consume as much as 225 kg/ cap. 4. Farm sizes get smaller. Let us implement a small-scale biodiverse, integrated , organic (bio) farm . Small-scale Bio farming is the key to achieving food sufficiency in the Philippine context .Growing diverse crops in 0.1 ha at least once a week can provide more than enough vegetables, herbs, spices, medicinal plants and fruits(guava, citrus) for a family of 6. All able bodied people should grow their own food crops . There are still many idle spaces. You need not go far.

In conclusion, achieving food sufficiency can not be done by pursuing consumption and production as usual. First, our data on per cap consumption is revealing. There are many other caloric energy sources .Second, eating well milled rice is throwing away more than 1.0 million tons of rice along with the many nutrients in it. Not only production but also the way we eat is leading us to food crisis. Third, the food production breakthroughs achieved during the period of abundant resources (oil, water, land, nutrients) and relatively favorable climate and fewer mouths to feed led to our current food consumption pattern, habits, preferences or culture. The same production strategy to sustain the increasing demand for food cannot be done . Every body should now put efforts in producing food in whatever quantity. Philippine climate is so accommodating for our crops. We have no extremes of seasons. We need to implement a small-scale biodiverse, integrated , organic

(bio) farm or ahousehold based agriculture integrated into it is recycling biodegradable wastes easily composted for our vegetables and fruit tress around the house.

Teodoro C. Mendoza is a Professor of Crop Science , College of agriculture,UP Los Baos. Currently, he teaches ecological agriculture and farming systems. He is a food systems analyst. In 2001, as an awardee of SEARCA professorial Chair, he delivered lecture on Pursuing Debates of Food Security in the New Millennium. Since then, he has been advocating policies and practices to achieve sustainable food security. A farmer by birth, he has been an advocate and practitioner of Small-scale biodiverse organic farming.

Table 1. Per capita rice consumption, population , and rice import (Year 20002009) Consumption Year Per Person Population (million) 76.95 78.56 80.20 81.87 83.56 85.26 86.97 88.71 90.45 92.50 (C) (kg) (1) 2000 103.16 2001 103.17 2002* 108.03 2003 107.02 2004 116.09 2005 118.80 2006 118.70 2007 126.24 2008 128.10 2009 119.92 Source of Data : BAS (2010) Total Consumption (X1000 tons) 7938.16 8105.04 8664.01 8761.73 9700.48 10128.89 10323.34 11198.75 11586.65 11092.60 Imported Rice (2) (*tons) 616,518 745,378 1,238,366 697,836 983,976 1,838,884 1,627,700 1,790,269 2,432,000 1,755,000

Table 2 Philippines : Rice output year 2005 to 2009 *

Ave. Ave. Yield yield Philippines (2.7Mha) Irrigated Area (1.4 Mha) Rainfed area (1.3 Mha) Total 2005 11,233,793 3,369,212 14,603,005 2006 11,594,933 3,731,773 15,326,706 2007 12,269,39 0 3,970,804 16,240,19 4 2008 12,556,15 0 4,259,398 16,815,54 8 2009 for 5 years 12,083,26 4 4,183,153 16,266,41 7 11947506 3902868 15,850,37 4 per ha 4.3 3.0 7.3 3.6

Source: BAS(2010); Yields are in metric tons