Even if the country achieves rice sufficiency by the Year 2020 as programmed, maintaining the level of food security will be fleeting and temporary unless the massive population growth is checked.
Lest I am misunderstood, let me make it clear that my position has nothing to do with the government’s Reproductive Health advocacy.
I am simply sharing this view as a farmer and now head of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Right after I was appointed Secretary of Agriculture, I sought the help of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the conduct of a National Food Consumption Quantification Study.
The study, which is on-going, aims to determine the following:
1. What food do Filipinos prefer to eat?
2. How much of this food do they consume?
3. Where and how do we produce this food?
4. How much of this food do we need to produce for Filipinos 10, 20 or 50 years from now?
5. Up to what point will the land and aquatic resources of the country be able to supply the food need of a bigger population?
6. How do we produce food using less land and water?
7. How do we wean Filipino consumers from their dependence on food commodities which require large areas to grow?
People have to understand that the 30-million hectare land area and the width of the seas within the country’s EEZ are finite.
There will be a point in the life of this nation when the land and the seas will no longer be able to produce enough food for Filipinos.
This is something that our leaders must understand and appreciate that the need to manage population is not an affront on a religious dogma but part of the struggle for the survival of the nation.
Farmers can only produce as much food as there are lands to till and fishermen could only catch as much fish as there are seas to sail.
Beyond that, not even the best agriculturist could ensure that there will be enougj food for everybody.
Food sufficiency is directly correlated to the number of mouths to feed.
We may achieve rice sufficiency by 2020 but it will be temporary and fleeting.
This is both a challenge and a warning.