Agriculture Secretary William Dar is not trying to be an alarmist when he warned of a looming food crisis that could start in the second half of the year due to shrinking supply and soaring costs of fertilizer.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has already cautioned the world on years of mass hunger and famine once the global food crisis goes unchecked amid the war in Ukraine. The situation is being exacerbated by the war since Ukraine is considered the bread basket of the world. The Eastern European nation was exporting 4.5 million tons of agricultural produce per month through its ports before the Russian invasion. It accounted for 12 percent of the world’s wheat supply, and shipped out 15 percent of its corn and half of its sunflower oil.
The conflict has disrupted the regular land and shipping routes for Ukraine’s exports. The same is true with Russia’s food and fertilizer shipments. Economic and financial sanctions against Russia, the UN notes, are disrupting the supplies of fertilizer, wheat and other commodities from the two nations, resulting in higher food and fuel prices.
The Philippines may not directly feel the impact of soaring wheat prices, being a rice-eating nation. But the higher transportation cost and rising prices of fertilizer products in the world market are impacting on food and farms in the countryside.
Mr. Dar says the the only way to address the looming food crisis is through increased agriculture production. The Cabinet official spoke of a transitional plan for the farm and fisheries sectors, including a proposed P250-billion budget that the Department of Agriculture plans to forward to the government of presumptive president Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The food crisis will certainly prompt the incoming administration to reboot the agricultural program. Mr. Dar has urged the next administration to put a premium on cushioning the impact of food scarcity in the global market as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Agriculture will remain a critical component of the economy despite its current dismal contribution to the gross domestic product. A well-fed population ensures peace and order and leads to political stability, while self-sufficiency in food shields the Philippines from unforeseen geopolitical upheavals.