Sunday, January 3, 2010

Food Insufficiency or Inadequate Policy?

This was supposed to be posted last week but I gave it a miss because 'my desk was hit by a typhoon'. Then, our New Year was greeted with a 20-cent higher sugar price. Ouch. I felt bad cooking 'serawa durian' today for it requires a cup of sugar and chunks of 'gula melaka' for it has to be sweet enough to linger around your taste bud and stop you from eating too much of it because "Cuisine is only about making the food taste the way they are supposed to taste" (Charlie Trotter).

They say the raw material prices have gone up thus justifies the hike. Though the canteen operators have been warned not to increase their food price while association to all India Muslim Restaurants assured their loyal clients that they won't increase the price of their drinks and all, we know we should brace for more hikes in this very near future for other essential food items.

I have been telling my friends and colleagues about Japan's food self-sufficiency and I thought we should also strive for the same sufficiency. Alas, my dream country has become more import-dependent to feed its people these past few years. After reading this article by Prof. Takamitsu Sawa - a professor of Ritsumeikan University's Graduate School of Policy Science and an appointed professor at Kyoto University's Institute of Economic Research - it makes us realise that globalisation leaves a bitter taste in our mouth.

A hike in food prices normally signals economic policy mismatch. Like the bulls and the bears of the stock markets, it is sentiment-driven, or perhaps I should say it is actually greed-driven.

Free trade opens up many global opportunities for the riches to grab more and more lands overseas (too often at too low a price, yes, all in the name of creating economic activities), hiring lowly-paid locals (eventually turning locals away and creating an uncontrolled influx of foreigners), turning many agricultural lands into manufacturing (consequently increasing the entry cost of agriculture) and foods are then imported as we grow biodiesel-producing plants instead of food.

The damaging effect of globalisation would be felt when economy runs a bear, manufacturing sectors have to lay off its workers to bring down costs while standard of living continues to increase as food, utilities and petrol prices picking up like nobody's business but the poors.

If you read this report here, you'd see that even World Banks gets its agricultural model wrong, arguing that liberalisation of global agricultural trade will benefit poor countries, which in no way can be demonstrated.

Eventually, this food security problem isn't at all about natural disasters that disrupt or destroy our food-planting areas but primarily due to wrong policies being made.

Hmm, talking about food security, I cannot help myself to feel even more sorry. We can't even ensure top security at our RMAF grounds now we lost our RM100.0 million fighter jet engines. Now you know why we have sugar and flour shortage - it's the inside con-job!

Ops! Before i forgot! They say we should increase the price of sugar so people would consume less of it and help to curb the alarming increase of 'Dua Bersaudara' health problems - HBP and Diabetes. How thoughtful I'd say because it is indeed not at all worth the diseases just because we ingest too much sugar. When we can reduce our government health costs, imagine the kind of surplus in budget we could spend on education and better infrastructure?

Biologically, our body is equipped with relevant sensors on our tongues that trigger certain parts of our grey matter that there's enough sugar and salt in the food or drink we ingested. When we could just make do with a sachet of sugar to our tea or coffee, most of us take 2 to 3 sachets. This reflects a failure in our taste bud because too much exposure to such sweetness subsequently increases our sweetness threshold, which explains why people with diabetes tend to ingest something way too sweeter to our taste buds.

So, we all could help the curb of increasing food price hikes simply by eating well. It would be much easier to heed than getting a stranger justifying why there's no sugar in a supermarket near your house.

p.s. With the seeds i got from my Bro PT CA and some eggplant and lady finger seeds i got from Giant, now i have them sprouted in every available pots and lands i have in my garden. Can you imagine how it feels cooking your quiche using spinach from your own pots? It's definitely delicious :)


walla said...

You wrote this in 6 minutes? wow!

Fi-sha said...

Hehhehehe..i could yak yak yak and yak in less than that Sir Walla... :)