Recovering a ‘Lost Bounty’By Juan L. Mercado
Cebu Daily News
No. You can’t go and play until you finish everything on your plate.” That firm edict, from parents long gone, still resounds in our ears. “Other children have nothing to eat,” they’d drill into us four kids. “Waste not, want not.”
We’re grandparents now. One out of eight today, the world over, don’t get enough to eat,” we tell Kristin, 9 and Katarina 6. Here, 4.3 million households suffer “involuntary hunger” Social Weather Stations reported this October. “Hunger knows no master than it’s feeder”.
Yearly, the Philippines loses a million metric tons of already-harvested rice, from slipshod processing to shabby storage, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told Inquirer. That’s double what we bought abroad this year. The country imported 860,000 tons in 2011.
Losses in cabbage can exceed a third of the harvest, research by University of the Philippines at Los Banos reveals. Spoilage for bananas spirals to 35 percent. In fisheries, losses amounted to 40 percent. Worldwide, fish spoilage exceeds 11 million tons yearly.
“To the ruler, the people are heaven,” an Asian proverb says. “To the people, food is heaven.” In Jakarta this July, an ASEAN and UN Industrial Organization workshop presented data documenting that rodents crunched through “the equivalent of food that 225 million Asians consume in a year.” The price-tag for annual post-harvest losses is $5 billion.
“People have started to equate throwing food away with throwing away cash”, Sarah Nassauer wrote in Wall Street Journal. “With food prices high, there’s guilt about waste but dread of the reheated dinner… But there is life with leftovers” —- which she details.
Each American “throws away about 400 pounds of food a year — about the “weight of an adult male gorilla.” An average U.S. family of four spends $500 to $2,000 each year on food that ends up in the garbage. In 2010, discarded food — 33 million tons — made up the largest component in landfills and incinerators, reports, US Environmental Protection Agency.
“Food waste worldwide accounts for a third of all food production,” British Broadcasting Corporation notes. Recovering what is frittered away is essential. But a huge increase in agricultural investment is also needed. “If these fail to materialize, the consequences will be devastating.”
We have little wiggle room. Food reserves have been drawn down: rice by more than 40 percent, wheat by almost a third and corn by a half. “Even in a good year, we just about produce enough food to meet consumption needs”.
India had a “dry” monsoon. The US is emerging from the worst drought in half a century. Vast stretches of Russia are still parched. So was much of South America. “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain,” as Eliza Doolittle crooned in the Broadway play “My Fair Lady.”
Harvests shriveled as a result, stalling the welcome easing of food prices. “The situation does not look as bad as 2008 when food riots erupted in 12 countries,” FAO‘s Abdolreza Abbassian notes. That turmoil did leave “people a little over sensitive.”
Still, prices remain at historically high levels Nor will they dip anytime soon. High energy costs, prop up prices. “We will need to produce 70 percent more food, by 2050, to feed the world’s expanding population.” World watch Institute projects..
Overall population growth continues from momentum of earlier rapid growth, although fertility has slumped… The 1940 census tallied 19 million Filipinos. Come 2020, population will surge to 111.7 million, National Statistical Coordination Board projects.
That’s a five-fold increase. Every one, however, is entitled to adequate food. “To the hungry child, you can not say tomorrow. His name is today.”
The world, meanwhile, is warming. Artic ice sheets are thinning even as Antartic snow thickens. Severe droughts carom into severe floods, then back, affecting rainfall — and harvests
Factor in what is lost after reaping. Rodents, insects to sheer carelessness take a toll along the chain — drying processing, storage to packaging for grocery shelves and dinner plates. Losses oscillate anywhere between 10 to as high as 40 percent.
Up to 16 percent of rice is lost in cutting, handling, threshing, and cleaning, mostly by hand, International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos estimates. Another 5 to 21 percent disappears in drying, storage, milling and processing.
FAO crunches out similar estimates of rice loss in Southeast Asian countries. Vietnam, for example, can lose 25 percent under typical conditions.
“For now, I ask no more than the justice of eating,” wrote Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda. So more can eat, Secretary Alcala urged the private sector to Invest in dryers, mills, and silos to reduce waste. Is anybody listening?
In 2011, the pork barrel crested at P19.5 billion. Each senator got P200 million and P70 million was ladled to every congressman (Senators Joker and Panfilo Lacson refused pork slabs over the last decade) How much of that went to tamp down post harvest losses?
Local governments are the closest to artisanal fishermen. Any province sponsor innovative projects like wooden barrels, for brine treatment. developed by College of Fisheries, UP Visayas?
Five thousand ate and were filled from five loaves and two fish, shared by a young boy, and multiplied by the Galilean. “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost,” the Master told his disciples. And they “filled twelve baskets.”
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