Tony Lopez Finally, a congressman has taken notice of the incoming global food and fuel crisis. Through Gil Bugaoisan, Iloilo Rep Jerry Trenas sent me a press release warning that the Philippines is one of the 25 countries identified by Nomura Research that will go hungry due to the food price surge. Aside from the skyrocketing cost of fuel, Trenas suggests the countrys next biggest challenge is the looming global food crisis and unless the government moves rapidly to increase domestic food production, the Philippines might fall into a severe food shortage situation. Nomuras Global Economic Strategy lists that the Philippines No 13 among 80 nations with the highest degree of food price surge vulnerability. Trenas is the Chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability. He suggests that the government should now start directing its policies on sustainable food security programmes, as economic experts around the world are raising the alarm bells for a worsening global food surge that can cause widespread starvation in several countries. Unfortunately, we have yet to hear from the administration exactly what its plans are about food production and containing the rising fuel prices. Food is 55 percent of the Filipino consumer basket. Of the 55 percent, 15 percent is rice. We dont have enough rice, contrary to the claims of the National Food Administration that we are swimming in rice. My personal estimate is that we are short of rice by about two million tons this year. Compounding the food crisis is the rising oil prices, which have hit their highest in the past two and a half years. While writing for the American Centre for Progress, Jake Caldwell says: Rising oil prices also are driving food prices higher. Oil and fossil fuels are a significant agricultural input cost, from fertiliser and crop production, to fuel to drive machinery for farmers and producers. The price of oil also has an impact on the cost of storage and transportation of food around the world. As oil prices rise, inflationary pressures send food prices soaring in both developing countries and the US. If you track the world food index and the price of Brent oil in the past 10 years, you will find that they rise in tandem, in remarkable unison. Brent crude price has more than doubled, just like the food index. In the past year, notes Caldwell: A series of extreme weather events have increased the level of uncertainty and unpredictability surrounding the success or failure of upcoming harvests.The status of future food stocks are affected by flooding in Australia, Pakistan, and Brazil, and unprecedented heat waves and drought in Russia, Ukraine, and now China. Heavy rains in Iowa and Illinois and dry conditions in key US wheat growing regions such as Kansas and Colorado are also sending prices higher and playing havoc with harvest forecasts. For his part, Trenas says: Global events, climate change, the booming economy of China, growing population and changing diet patterns are also conspiring together to push for a global food price surge.Most of the things that we eat and drink have imported components, from the flour that was used to make the bread and the feed that was used to nourish the cows. With a very weak economy, the Philippines is completely vulnerable to the rising cost of food commodities around the world. Nomura sees another multi-year food price rise, partly because of burgeoning demand from the worlds rapidly developing - and most populated - economies, where diets are changing towards a higher calorie intake. The 82-page Nomura report says a global food price surge is looming large because the supply side of the food equation is being constrained by diminishing agricultural productivity gains and competing use of available land due to rising trends of urbanisation and industrialisation, while supply has also become more uncertain due to greater use of biofuels, global warming and increasing water scarcity. So one thing must be made clear --- providing adequate food supplies is the primary responsibility of government. As many as 18.1 percent of the population had claimed to have gone to sleep hungry in the past three months. Thats 3.4 million, according to the SWS. Almost half of Filipinos rate themselves as poor. You know the primary reason why those rebellious Arabs rose against their rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and many other places? Hunger and poverty. Here in the Philippines, Aquino continues to enjoy 64-plus percent popularity rating, according to SWS. That popularity can evaporate overnight if he doesnt deliver. A hungry nation is an unstable nation, Trenas concludes. - Manila Times