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Filipinos eating more rice due to poverty–survey

/ 01:49 AM December 13, 2011

A weaker purchasing power due to poverty is driving poor Filipinos to eat more rice even without viands just to fill their stomachs, the latest statistics showed.

Data from Bureau of Agriculture Statistics (BAS) showed that  Filipinos’ rice consumption remained high, but their intake of meat and vegetables had gone down over the years, a sign that they cannot afford a more varied and nutritious diet.

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Based on the results of its Food Consumption and Nutrition Survey, which maps out the diet of Filipinos over recent years, BAS said Filipinos depended on rice more than ever for their caloric and protein intake.

The survey also noted that Filipinos’ intake of beef and certain fruits and vegetables had gone down in the past decade.

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BAS said a Filipino ate 308.93 grams of rice a day in 2010, up from the 2000 base level of 282.63 grams per day. That amount of rice provided 1,102.88 grams of calories and 23.17 grams of protein.

Efraim Rasco, chief of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice),  said the large portion of rice in the diet of Filipinos was an indicator of their poor purchasing power.

That Filipinos rely heavily on rice to get through their day could mean that they could not afford other commodities, Rasco said. “Rice is still cheap. Para mabusog, magkanin na lang (To get full, just eat rice),” he said.

Rasco said this was “alarming” since this kind of diet was unhealthy.

New dietary guidelines recommend that fruits and vegetables should occupy half of our plates and grains about one-fourth.

According to Philrice, half of the typical Filipino plate contains rice despite recommendations to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Edson Sanguyo, a BAS statistician who was involved in the survey, said lower-income households tended to prioritize rice over other goods. “Di bale na walang ibang pagkain, basta may bigas (Never mind other food as long as you have rice),” he said.

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Rasco also attributed the increase in per capita consumption of rice to the shift by corn- and cassava-eating provinces to rice. “They prefer rice because they see it as a classier food,” he said.

This shift is reflected in the BAS survey, which showed that corn consumption went down to 44.30 grams per day from 50.88 grams per day in 2000.

Food consumption is one of the primary indicators of poverty.

Rolando Dy, an economist at the University of Asia and the Pacific, said rice consumption tended to go down as income went up, allowing households to shift to other sources of calories like bread, potatoes and meat.

Since rice is the cheapest source of energy in the country —the government monitors its price carefully and provides subsidized rice to poor consumers—it remains the most affordable food in the Philippines.

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TAGS: Agriculture, BAS, Hunger, Poverty, rice
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