Philippines proposes establishment of World Food Bank to solve hunger


Statement of DA Sec Piñol on 40th FAO Session

Rome, Italy – The Philippines has proposed the establishment of a unique bank, the World Food Bank, which could receive agricultural products as “deposits” which in turn could be “loaned out” to countries suffering from food shortages and famine.

The proposal was submitted during the Philippine Country Statement which I delivered following the opening of the 40th Session of the Food and Agriculture Organization Conference here in Rome, Italy yesterday, July 3.

The idea of the World Food Bank is not a new as this was already discussed in the past but it was formally presented to the Plenary of the 40th Session of the FAO yesterday as the world’s leaders raised alarm over the increasing number of hungry people in the world.

In the concept which I presented, any country producing a food commodity in excess, like wheat, corn, cassava or rice, could submit their excess products inventory to the World Food Bank which could loan these out to countries where people are suffering from hunger or famine.

For example, Filipino farmers who are producing cassava and corn in excess of what the Philippines needs, could be assured of ready market for their products.

The government through the National Food Authority could buy these products which in turn will inform the World Food Bank of the available stocks.

Countries suffering from food shortages, on the other hand, would be temporarily relieved of their problem of feeding their hungry population.

This early the idea is gaining interest from different groups which see a lot of benefits both for the food producing country and the countries suffering from food shortages.

FAO Secretary General Louis Gagnon has promised to refer the idea to the technical people of the Organization who would give flesh to the unique idea.

Switzerland Ambassador Bernard Lehman called the idea ‘”ïnteresting” and said he would look into it and provide feedback to the Philippine delegation.

Here is the complete text of my Country Statement:

Climate Change is real and to those who claim that it is a farce, I ask them to live in the farm for them to see and feel the proofs. When rains do not fall during the times they are expected affecting the farmer’s planting season; when the fruit trees do not bloom with flowers during the season when they supposed to and when typhoons come more frequently and more destructively, these are proofs of Climate Change.

The manifestations of Climate Change are unpredictable and greatly disruptive to food production.

As one of the five countries in the world greatly affected by Climate Change, we have learned our painful lessons and with our modest resources, our government has made adjustments.

The Philippines has established an office under the Department of Agriculture called Adaptation and Mitigation Initiatives in Agriculture (AMIA) which led the establishment of the first ever National Color-Coded Agriculture Map indicating the kind of agricultural activity recommended in specific areas of the country based on soil suitability, risks and hazards. The public website also provides stakeholders with an advanced information on Climatic threats, including warning for weather disturbances which could affect agriculture and fisheries. This Map was launched by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on March 7, 2017.

Learning our lessons from Typhoon Haiyan where rescue and relief teams had a hard time delivering food to the disaster stricken areas because of damaged roads and fallen bridges, the Dept. of Agriculture now is identifying areas where Food Forts which could withstand typhoons could be established. These food storage areas will serve as the stocking area of basic food commodities to be able to feed communities for a maximum period of one month.

The Philippine Legislature is now working on a universal insurance coverage for all agricultural crops and fisheries to ensure that farmers and fisher folks affected by Climate Change will be able to get back on their feet and recover again.

With the help of FAO Philippines, we are now conducting a National Food Consumption Quantification Study which would identify where we would grow or produce food and at what volume to be able to feed the country. It will also include projections on the food requirements of the country 20 years from now.

To address the frequent occurrence of long dry spells and El Niño, and given the fact that the Philippines has abundant water in its aquifer, we have developed the Solar-Powered Irrigation Systems technology to be able to provide water during droughts and intensified efforts in establishing small water impoundings to store run-off water during the rainy season.

The Dept. of Agriculture has adopted Tree Crop Farming as an agricultural activity to encourage farmers to plant trees in watershed and water sources which they could grow along with coffee, cacao and other permanent crops. Farmers who will plant trees will be given access to a loaning program payable after 10 years.

The Philippine government has just launched an Easy Access Financing Program aimed at helping Small Farm and Fisher Folk Families in increasing their productivity and addressing poverty in the countryside. Granted without any collateral and a service fee of only 6%, Small Farm Families could avail of loans ranging from as low as $200 to a maximum of $500 to buy seeds and other farm inputs, gasoline for their fishing boats and ice boxes.

To prepare for possible reduction of fish catch because of the warming of the ocean caused by Climate Change, the Philippine Government recently launched the National Inland Fisheries Development Program which will involve the seeding of the country’s lakes, rivers and creeks with over 200-million fingerlings of indigenous and non-invasive fish species, eel and fish water shrimps to ensure available food for the country.

Under the leadership of President Duterte who promised “Available and Affordable Food” for the country, the Department of Agriculture is seeking a $2.5-B budget for 2018 which is about three times higher than its previous budget allocation.

This is in line with the belief of President Duterte that by investing in agriculture and fisheries in the countryside, not only will the country benefit from greater food productivity, it will also be able to address rural poverty which is the cause of massive urban migration.

It is on this note that the Philippines calls for the following:

Greater cooperation between advanced food producing countries and emerging food production areas like the Philippines for technology transfer and sharing of best practices. Feeding the world must a shared mission of all countries and the old practice of keeping in exclusivity advanced technologies must be abandoned;

Promotion of more financing and investments to enable smallholders, farm families, especially woman farmers, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable sectors to access markets to cope with the challengers of food scarcity, malnutrition and Climate Change.Support for agricultural research institutions by regional and international organisations like FAO and its members to develop more productive and Climate Change resilient technological platforms.

Finally, to remind everyone that the mission to feed world must be shared by all nations, I would like to share with you this story.

In the village where I grew up, we shared with our neighbours whatever food we had in excess with the understanding that it would later be repaid, maybe in another form.

If a family does not have rice for the next meal, the neighbour shares rice and nobody in the village was ever hungry.

I am sharing this story with you because of the reality that today, while other countries are producing food or could produce a commodity in excess of their requirements, there are nations whose people are hungry.

I am urging this body to please consider this Filipino tradition as a way to make sure that in the global village that we live in nobody would go hungry.

The idea of a World Food Bank, which I suggest should be managed by the FAO, is being presented for the consideration of the members of this body.

Any country which has an excess production of a commodity could make a deposit to the World Food Bank which in turn could be loaned out to nations who are suffering from food shortages.

The World Food Bank will not only ensure that commodities produced in excess by a country would not go to waste thus ensuring that the farmer will make money from his endeavour, it will also greatly contribute to the FAO’s vision of Zero Hunger.

Thank you and may the Almighty bless us all.

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