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For National Food Security, Eat other crops

Eating other crops to diversify diet will not only improve nutrition of Filipinos but will at the same time help in achieving national food security and rice self-sufficiency by 2013, the Philippine Food Staples Self-sufficiency Roadmap (FSSR) for 2011-2016 think tank advocated.

Substituting other staples for rice is seen as strategy in preventing further increase in per capita rice consumption, was shown in FSSR’s document produced through various workshops spearheaded by the Rice Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Our per capita consumption of rice at 120 kg/year can be maintained with the use of white corn, sweet potato, cassava and banana as substitute for rice. Japan and China in spite of their small rice area harvested per capita are rice sufficient because of citizens’ diversified diet, Dr. Flordeliza Bordey, PhilRice economist and newly designated spokesperson for the Food Staple plan said.

Bordey said that DA’s Rice, Corn, and High-Value Commercial Crops programs will work on augmenting the supply of alternative staples by 35 percent a year and increasing their accessibility and affordability.

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 export, rice self-sufficiency is becoming an urgent task, she further said.

In 2008, it can be recalled that the price of rice increased dramatically owing to the export bans issued by exporters and panic buying of importers. This is the result of the thin and heavily concentrated international rice trade that continuous to be a major concern for food policymakers, she also said.

Meanwhile, recent news featured non-rice staple food advocates including actress Gretchen Barretto who eats boiled potato with fruits. She swore to the effectiveness of the unique diet in interviews, read in an article of Health Today.

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.

To have enough rice supply for the country, FSSR also gave emphasis on interventions such as development and maintenance of irrigation systems; increasing farmers’ access to high-quality seeds; and research, development, and promotion of appropriate technology.

FSSR at the same time, stressed on agricultural extension and farmers’ education; reducing post-harvest losses; and developing upland rice-based farming systems using sustainable agricultural practices.

DA-PhilRice is a government owned and controlled corporation that aims at developing high-yielding, cost-reducing, and environment-friendly technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos. Ester Gallardo, PSciJourn MegaManila

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