A Self-Reliant Economy in the Face of War
The Ukraine-Russia war is spiking the prices of oil and certain commodities, such as wheat and corn, in the world market because of the disruption in the supply chain. The geopolitical conflict fundamentally augments the discourse that a nation must be well prepared and achieve a higher degree of self-reliance on food and other commodities to temper the economic fallout.
The higher prices of wheat and corn will eventually make an impact on Philippine agriculture and consumers. Russia is the world’s largest exporter of wheat while Ukraine ranks as the fourth-biggest shipper of the commodity. The two warring nations combined account for almost one-third of wheat’s world trade. Ukraine, meanwhile, is the fourth-largest corn exporter in the world and accounts for about 22 percent of the global trade.
The Philippines will feel the impact of rising feed wheat and corn prices on the cost of meat as soon as local feed millers and livestock and poultry growers run out of inventory and start replenishing their stock. The Western blockade against Russian products, including wheat, and the logistical challenges in Ukraine are squeezing the supply of these two key commodities.
The Philippines, from what I heard from an industry official, requires 10 million tons of corn annually. The country only produces 7 million tons, with 2 million of the volume consumed by people in the Visayas. That leaves only 5 million tons for livestock and poultry growers, who must import the balance of 5 million tons against the backdrop of the European war.
We must address the shortfall in local agricultural production if we want to survive geopolitical disputes. President Duterte, in his effort to find ways on how to mitigate the impact of the war on the Philippines, last week approved the recommendation of his economic team to bolster the economy and stabilize prices by raising local production to ensure food security.
I can only agree with the recommendations of the economic team. Boosting agricultural production to attain food security is one of the advocacies of our family. In our own modest way, my wife Cynthia and I and the rest of my family have been helping to uplift the lives of Filipino farmers by providing them with trainings on modern farm technology to boost their productivity, harvests and income.
Through the Villar SIPAG (Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance), Cynthia has been providing free training sessions on agricultural-related courses to farmer-trainers and other stakeholders in the sector.
The Villar SIPAG is sponsoring a training on agricultural crops productions at its Villar SIPAG Farm School at the boundary of Bacoor, Cavite and Las Piñas; San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; San Miguel, Iloilo; and in Davao to cater to farmers in the Visayas and in Mindanao, respectively.
The farm schools will facilitate the transfer of agricultural technology to participants, who in turn are expected to teach farmers when they return to their respective towns after graduating from the Villar Farm School.
Cynthia, chairperson of the Senate committee on Agriculture and Food, has been continuing her projects and programs that benefit our farmers, who belong to the “poorest among the poor.”
I also remember my provincial sorties back then when I was campaigning in Northern Luzon provinces, where I had a dialogue with farmers and graced the commencement exercises of some colleges and universities. Agriculture is close to my heart. I personally inspected the agricultural projects I initiated in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture and the National Food Authority, especially the hybrid warehouse and storage facility in Kalinga.
I have always believed that the agriculture sector plays a key role in the country’s economic development. And if given more support and funding, the sector will help in alleviating poverty and hunger among the poor, especially in the provinces.
A vibrant and modern agriculture sector is what we need to shield us from disruptive geopolitical conflicts. Food sufficiency will assure our security more than guns and ammunition.