AMID panic over soaring rice prices and worries about whether the Philippines, the world’s biggest rice importer, can secure enough supplies, the results of the latest census have diverted blame towards a perennial culprit: overpopulation. The figures put the population at almost 89m when the census was taken last August, up from 77m in 2000. That means it has been growing at just over 2% annually since then. That rate is below the 2.3% annual growth of the 1990s and the 3% of the 1960s. But it is still faster than expected. Some analysts think the census undercounted, especially among poorer Filipinos. The population may now be up to 93m.
Every hour, then, the country has an extra 200 little mouths to feed. And increasing numbers of them are being born into grinding poverty. Other new government figures show that the number of people scraping by on less than $1 a day has risen by 16% since 2003, to 28m. More people mean more houses, which means less land to grow crops. The government this month imposed a temporary ban on building on farmland, as it revives its attempt to achieve self-sufficiency in rice.
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