Filipinos’ rice consumption remains high, but their intake of meat and vegetables have gone down over the years, a sign that they cannot afford a more varied and nutritious diet, according to agriculture experts.
The Bureau of Agriculture Statistics (BAS) released late last week its Food Consumption and Nutrition Survey, which mapped out the diet of Filipinos over the recent years.
According to the survey, Filipinos depend 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 have gone down in the past decade.
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 provides 1,102.88 grams of calories and 23.17 grams of protein.
Efraim Rasco, chief of the Philippine Rice Research Institute said the increase in per capita consumption could be attributed to two things.
First, Rasco noted that corn- and cassava-eating provinces have shifted to rice. “They prefer rice because they see it as a classier food,” Rasco said.
This shift was 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.
He also noted that the large share of rice in the diet of Filipinos indicated their poor purchasing power.
That Filipinos rely heavily on rice to get through their day could mean that they still cannot afford other commodities, Rasco said. “Rice is still cheap. Para mabusog, mag-kanin na lang (To fill oneself up, one just eats rice),” he said.
Food consumption is one of the primary indicators of poverty level. 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 the price carefully and provides subsidized rice to poor consumers – it remains the most affordable food in the Philippines.
Edson Sanguyo, a BAS statistician who was involved in the survey said, low-income households tended to prioritize rice over other goods. “Di bale na wala ang ibang pagkain, basta may bigas (It’s all right not to have other foods for as long there is rice),” he said.
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