Food security advocates warn against brewing unrest from ranks of the hungry

The Aquino administration faces a backlash from the growing ranks of the hungry because his government’s penchant for pursuing privatization of vital services and his pro-agribusiness policies are worsening hunger and poverty, a nationwide coalition of grassroots food sovereignty advocates warned Wednesday.

In a protest action near the Malacanang Palace, the Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS) said that genuine food security begins with pro-poor food and agriculture policies.

“Sadly, this government continues to espouse market-driven and corporate-friendly agriculture policies which place profit-making above the goal of providing food for all,” Arze Glipo, TFFS convener said.

TFFS argued that the public private partnership model and large-scale private investments will place control over the country’s food production system in the hands of corporations and private investors who are more interested in producing cash crops and biofuels.

TFFS used the occasion of World Food Day to also call attention to the threat posed by rising food prices, which in 2008 led to the first global food crisis in decades.

“High food prices, brought about by extreme weather and increasing financial speculation in food derivatives, coupled with dwindling rural incomes due to government’s decades-long neglect of agriculture are a major problem. Government needs to address this by increasing local palay procurement, shoring up rice reserves and maintaining quantitative restrictions on rice imports,” Glipo said.

TFFS said that increased food price volatility and rising prices, a major global policy concern, is one more reason to drop plans to privatize the National Food Authority, an agency mandated to stabilize food prices, particularly that of the national staple.

“The NFA is an integral part of government’s policy intervention toolbox. It is an agency specifically created to ensure a fair income for producers while protecting consumers, particularly the poor, from high food prices. To privatize it now makes absolutely no sense,” Glipo explained.

“It is poor farmers who produce the bulk of the world’s food. Ironically it is also the poor, in both the rural and urban areas who bear the brunt of the high food prices because they spend more than half their incomes on food,” Ka Rene Ofracio, of AKTIB, an urban poor organization and TFFS member said.

“If left unaddressed, this brewing discontent could snowball into the kind of unrest that brought down governments in other parts of the world. We remind Pres. Aquino that high food prices played a major part in past upheavals including the recent Arab Spring,” Ofracio added. -30-


17 October 2012