Press Release
January 29, 2010


Sen. Loren Legarda, NP-NPC vice presidential candidate, said yesterday the government should concentrate on food production in view of prospects that food prices may shot up because of extreme weather conditions caused by climate change.

Loren made the statement as the National Economic Development Authority warned that food prices may increase this year because India is suffering the worst drought in four decades. As a result, India would have to import more food, especially rice, driving up the cost of food in the world market.

Loren said that as the biggest importer of rice in the world, the Philippines stands to suffer from higher prices. The Philippines also imports corn, including meat and poultry.

"As an agricultural country with rich natural resources, it is unacceptable that our people should go hungry. It is hunger in the midst of plenty," Loren deplored.

"The government must undertake a crash program for a nationwide food production effort if we are to prevent hunger from spreading among our people," said Loren, who is also the chair of the Senate committee on food and agriculture.

This should also include the propagation of livestock, such as cattle, pork and poultry, which is produced mostly by backyard farming.

The Philippines also faces the prospect of the El Niño phenomenon, characterized by a long dry spell, which is already being felt in some parts of the country, such as the Central Visayas, warned Loren.

The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) has told the public to brace for higher prices of pork and chicken as a consequence of the El Niño phenomenon that is expected to again affect several parts of Asia after hitting the region a few years ago.

The agency projects that the local hog and poultry industry will lose some P10 billion due to the anticipated dry spell.

"In the short run, we must conserve water both for household purposes and also for irrigation. But for the long run we must review our agricultural policies and programs. We must provide more technical support and credit for our farmers and fisherfolk so that they could produce more food for the table and bring down the prices of food," declared Loren.

"This is a challenge for the next administration," said Loren, adding that "the present administration has just a few more months in the saddle. So the torch is being passed to the next one."

According to Loren, what the next administration should do is to construct more rural infrastructures, such as irrigation systems, dams and water basins to conserve rain water, farm-to-market roads and preserve the ecosystems, especially rainforests. Loren lamented that only one-third of total farmland is being served by irrigation.

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