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Filipinos face nutrition crisis

June 12, 2022 Jester P. Manalastas 249 views

A nutrition crisis is possible as more people go hungry, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda warned.

Citing the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) study, the veteran lawmaker said some 100,000 new families experienced involuntary hunger during the first quarter of 2022, amid increasing prices of basic commodities.

The survey, conducted from April 19 to 27, 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,’ he said.

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. (https://www.fao.org/agrifood-economics/publications/detail/en/c/121578/)

“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.

“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.

The solon then underscored the need to ensure access to cheap food. He stressed that in the short-run, Filipinos won’t be able to avoid imports until cheap foods are produce.

However, he said, the country needs to supplement the domestic production of the usual staple crops with nutritional buffers such as camote, cassava, small-scale poultry and eggs, and easy-to-produce vegetables.

“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,” he pointed out.