EACH Filipino wastes three tablespoons of rice everyday, which convert to at least P23-million worth of daily wastage, according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institue (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology.

Food wastage refers to cooked or raw food items that a family fails to consume due to spoilage and wastage during cooking or plate waste during mealtime. It also refers to food given to pets instead of humans, who are the intended recipients.

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It is surprising that in a land where hunger levels reached a record high with an estimated 4 million Filipino families were unable to eat their meals last June, household consumption of food indicates waste. On the average, 26 grams or nearly two tablespoons of food are wasted per capita per day.

This represents 2.9 percent of total available food in the household for consumption. Of this amount, an average of 16 grams or about one tablespoon of rice and products are wasted per person per day. Four grams each come from fish and products, and vegetables; and one gram each comes from corn and its products, and meat.

Wastage data on fish, meat and poultry appears to be higher in Visayas and Mindanao. Among the island groups, 28 grams of food are wasted per person in the Visayas, 26 grams in Mindanao and 25 grams in Luzon. Food wastage for rice and products in Luzon is highest at 16 grams per capita per day, followed by Visayas and Mindanao at 12 grams each.

With this statistics, the Save Rice, Save Lives Campaign was launched by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PRRI), with the call for every consumer to avoid wastage. "Ang bawat butil ng palay, bawat butil ng bigas, bawat butil ng kanin ay mahalaga. Sila ay nagbibigay buhay at hindi dapat sayangin [Every rice grain counts. Rice is life. Conserve it]."

It has also started its conservation commitment to "find and practice ways to save every grain of rice" as the citizens' way of helping the country reach self sufficiency. "Import savings from rice can reach P10 billion should Filipinos be dutiful in conserving rice, government officials said.

Rice consumers were urged to cook rice properly, to avoid undercooked or burned rice; recycle leftover rice into other dishes and will only order or cook rice that is enough to be consumed for every serving. But then again, this is hardly the problem for millions of Filipinos who have no means to buy rice or unable to fend for their daily needs.

As some families waste rice, there are millions who go hungry. As most of the populace suffers from skewed trade and agriculture policies, the country has to bear brunt of an oversupply. Beyond lamenting the case of importation, nothing is really being done to review the agricultural trade policy.

Unsustainable agriculture and high prices ensures only tough times for the majority who have nothing to eat. Time and again, we are confronted with public officials who never run out of an excuse. Email comments to roledan@gmail.com