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Salceda warns of nutrition crisis as hunger rises; House tax panel chair says adequate supply of cheap food crucial to PH long-term prospects

June 13th, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) is warning that the country could face a nutrition crisis, as a recent survey shows that some 100,000 new families experienced involuntary hunger during the first quarter of 2022, amid increasing prices of basic commodities. 

Salceda was citing the results of the April 19 to 27 survey showed that 12.2 percent of the respondents said their families experienced being hungry in the past three months. The figure was 0.4 point above the 11.8 percent or estimated three million families that experienced hunger based on the most recent survey conducted in December 2021. 

“I fear that if we don’t find a way to get cheap, accessible sources of nutrition among the poor and among children, we will see a nutrition crisis that could affect long-term growth prospects.”

A Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) study, Salceda cited, found that an augmentation by 500 kcal per day can cause as much as a 2.0 percentage point increase in real GDP per capita.  (www.fao.org

“That’s huge. Meanwhile, the mean daily energy intake of working adults was 1768 kcal/day or 74% of the Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) for this age group, according to another study by the FNRI. That means working-age Filipinos have around 621 calories in deficiency. In my own calculations, that will result in at least P851,000 per person in lost productivity over one’s working lifetime,” Salceda warned.

[Note: See FNRI study here]

“That’s worth a house! Working Filipinos currently lose a house’s worth of productivity because of poor access to nutrition. And that’s about to get worse during this period of high food prices. As caloric intake gets worse, and the quality of calories deteriorates, our long-term productivity will also suffer,” Salceda added.

“So, we really need to ensure access to cheap food. In the short-run, we won’t be able to avoid imports until we are able to produce cheaply. But we will also need to supplement our domestic production of the usual staple crops with nutritional buffers such as camote, cassava, small-scale poultry and eggs, and easy-to-produce vegetables,” Salceda said.

“That means we will have to support our main food system, but also encourage small-scale and local food production, through initiatives such as community and backyard farming, which we are already doing in my district.”

“Furthermore, we will need to pursue programs to boost sectors that are high in nutritional value relative to the cost, such as eggs, legumes, and rootcrops,” Salceda added.

“While supporting rice is good, rice as a foodstuff is extremely lacking in nutritional content. So, it won’t meet what our workforce and children need to be more productive participants in the economy,” Salceda added.

“That’s why I said the next Agri chief pick will be essential. I think given our current context, he or she will be the most important part of the country’s economic team.”

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