PHILIPPINES: Rice shortage hits poor as government grapples for solution
[pic]MANILA, 27 March 2008 (IRIN) - Like many poor Filipino families, Boyet and Milagros Navarro and their five children get by on just over US$2 a day. Boyet works as a welder in Baguio City on the northern island of Luzon and his wife is a part-time farm helper. According to the 2006 Family Income and Expenditure Survey, the latest conducted by the country's National Statistics Office, 68 million of the country's 90 million inhabitants live on or under US$2 a day. The same survey shows that for every $2.40 in daily earnings, more than a third goes towards food expenses, while the rest is spent on medicine, clothing, education and other expenditures. The Navarro family told IRIN they spend roughly US$1 a day on food, mostly rice, vegetables, some fish and occasionally meat, and because of their lean budget, they often skip a meal. Hunger may become a regular fixture in their lives as rice prices continue to rise - this year alone, the average price of rice has increased by up to 17 US cents and Filipino families are bracing themselves for more belt-tightening measures.
"No more fish and meat"
"We're reduced to eating rice and vegetables. No more fish and meat," Milagros said. "My husband and I can survive on that, but what about the children?"
Already, the average retail price of rice is 72 US cents a kilo, from 60 US cents in 2007. And there is no sign that prices are going to stabilise soon, as global prices continue to soar. The Navarros' dilemma is common to many other families in the Philippines. On the southern part of Luzon, in the Albay province of Bicol region, Mayor Noel Rosal of Legazpi City said many families there could no longer take regular meals because of high prices and the lack of supplies.
"This is not a joke. At 30 pesos per kilo (72 US cents), numerous families suffer from starvation," Rosal said.
The staple food for the majority of Filipinos, rice,...
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