Written by the Web Team
Diversifying diet will not only improve Filipinos nutrition but will also contribute in achieving national food security and rice self-sufficiency by 2013, think tank of the Philippine Food Staples Self-sufficiency Roadmap (FSSR) for 2011-2016 advocated.
In the country’s FSSR, a document produced through series of workshops spearheaded by the Rice Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA), substituting other staples for rice is seen as strategy in preventing further increase in per capita rice consumption.
“White corn, sweet potato, cassava, and banana can be used as substitutes for rice to maintain our per capita consumption at 120 kg/year. Other countries such as Japan and China are rice sufficient in spite of their small rice area harvested per capita because of citizens’ diversified diet,” Dr. Flordeliza Bordey, PhilRice economist and newly designated official spokesperson for the Food Staple Plan said.
Bordey said the DA’s Rice, Corn, and High-Value Commercial Crops programs will work on augmenting the supply of alternative staples by 3.5 percent a year and increasing their accessibility and affordability.
Bordey further said that rice self-sufficiency is becoming an urgent task with the threat of climate change in the traditional rice-exporting countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, India, and the US, which control 84 percent of the world rice export.
She added that “the thin and heavily concentrated international rice trade also continues to be a major concern for food policymakers.” In 2008, it can be recalled that the world price of rice increased dramatically owing to export bans issued by exporters and panic buying of importers.
Recent news have been featuring non-rice staple food advocates, including actress Gretchen Barreto, whose best remembered health regimen include the sweet potato diet, which she ate boiled, coupled with fruits. “Gretchen swore to the effectiveness of her unique diet in interviews,” an article on Health Today read.
Meanwhile, Roberto Alingog, PR Bank president and 2011 University of the Philippines’ outstanding alumnus in entrepreneurship and employment, said that eating sweet potato, a crop with more complex carbohydrates and high fiber content, is not only good for the health but also helps the country save millions of pesos from rice importation.
For the country to have enough rice supply, FSSR also highlighted interventions such as development and maintenance of irrigation systems; increasing farmers’ access to high-quality seeds; research, development, and promotion of appropriate technology; extension and farmers’ education; reducing post-harvest losses; and developing upland rice-based farming systems using sustainable agricultural practices.