Food policy: Food availability (3)

“The government is keen on improving the availability of food for the people.

So far, I have discussed the first and second dimensions of food security which are accessibility and food utilization, respectively.

Food availability refers to ensuring a steady food supply by improving domestic production, importing goods to cover production gaps, and creating buffer stocks/food banks. Food production, particularly in the agriculture and livestock sectors, requires infrastructure and financial support. The government should assist in providing efficient irrigation systems and environmentally compliant slaughterhouses to the farmers and animal breeders, respectively.

According to Ivory Myka Galang’s Discussion Paper ‘Is Food Supply Accessible, Affordable and Stable? The State of Food Security in the Philippines’, “The government’s food security program was implemented to ensure the availability of food supply in mind.” As stipulated in the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997, in Section 4, food security is defined as “the policy objective, plan and strategy of meeting the food requirements of the present and future generations of Filipinos in substantial quantity, ensuring the availability and affordability of food to all, either through local production, or importation, or both based on the country’s existing and potential resources endowment and related production advantages and consistent with the overall national development objectives and policies. However, sufficiency in rice and white corn should be pursued.”

Other laws aim to enhance further food production such as the Fisheries Code (1998), Philippine Technology Transfer Act (2009), Agricultural Fisheries and Mechanization Act (2013), and the Sagip Saka Act of 2019. There is also a law that aims to provide financial support to the agricultural sector such as the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act (2009). To empower the local sector, EO No. 86 s1999 created the National Council on Food Security or NCFS during President Estrada’s time. The order also created the Councils for Food Security in the Provinces, Independent Component Cities, and Highly Urbanized Cities. The NCFS is constituted to act as an overall coordinating body in the formulation of policy guidelines and master plans and programs, as well as the implementation of projects that ensure the attainment of “the national vision, mission, goals, objectives and targets of a workable and sustainable Food Security Program.”

Local and institutional initiatives to support the law have been expressed in programs such as Gulayan sa Paaralan, Gulayan ng Masa, Barangay Food Terminal”, and Tindahan Natin. A more robust program was later instituted aimed to eliminate hunger such as the Accelerated Hunger Mitigation Program in 2007 and the recent Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger in 2020.

Regarding food importation, the recent policy considers this option only as a last resort. This strategy was expressed by then DA Secretary William Dar in a press release in 2020.

Recognizing the fact that in the last 30 years, the Philippine import dependency ratio has been increasing, Secretary Dar clarified that this trend occurs because the agricultural production rate could not overtake the population growth rate.

As regards food buffering, PD No. 1770, issued on 14 January 1981, created the National Food Authority and one of its functions is to ensure a steady supply of the country’s basic commodities such as rice. The NFA has been mandated to perform buffering activities, particularly on rice. It is required “to maintain its warehouses” rice stocks equivalent to 15 days of consumption for the entire country.

The government is keen on improving the availability of food for the people. In January this year, the President stated that “The overreaching goals of this administration are to build an inclusive society where no one is hungry, where Filipinos live long and healthy lives and where they are provided by an environment built upon trust and security and where they can be innovative, remains smart, and responsive to the problems of the day.”

Plans and programs are in place to achieve and realize these goals. The only things remaining are optimism, patience and trust from the people.

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