ASEAN Plus Three’s Commitment to Regional Food Security
The issue of food security was highlighted as “a serious issue for human subsistence and development” in Southeast Asia during the 10th Meeting of ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministers of Agriculture of China, Japan and South Korea (10th AMAF Plus Three). At the meeting, which wrapped up in Phnom Penh this past 24 October, the ASEAN Plus Three (APT) representatives rallied support around the APT Cooperation Strategy on Food, Agriculture and Forestry, aiming to ensure long-term food security for the region and improve the livelihoods of farmers in APT countries.
Representatives also acknowledged developments towards the goals of the APT Cooperation on Food Security and Bio-Energy Development statement, commended the efforts of the ASEAN Food Security Information System (AFSIS) in its second phase and agreed to formalise the APT Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) as a permanent scheme. The ASEAN ministers of agriculture and forestry also rallied behind the candidacy of Indonesian scientist Indroyono Soesilo as next director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
These developments highlight ASEAN’s recognition that food security is integral to the well-being of the region and the growing voice of ASEAN representation in food security and agriculture at an international level. With a gross availability of 211.5kg of cereals per capita, food security in Southeast Asia (SEA) is within reach. However, to effectively and sustainably ensure the food security of SEA, it may be unwise for efforts to focus only on increased agricultural growth and production.
In order for ASEAN and its Plus Three partners to make further headway towards ensuring food security, the APT must recognise other challenges the region faces. According to GS Bhalla, there are four main challenges to ensuring food security in SEA:
1) Demand for foodgrains
Ensuring a steady demand for foodgrains in SEA is difficult as changes in income distribution across the region will impact food demand even with constant, stable income and population growth. This is particularly pertinent to SEA as economic development and growth rates vary widely among ASEAN member states.
2) Domestic food supply and self-sufficiency ratios
Two main factors contribute to food sufficiency: domestic food production (need to build domestic supply potential through development of rural infrastructure and commodity price policies) and international market (imports): both need to be addressed in order to ensure regional food security.
3) Access to food by the poor
Although by international standards, economic development and poverty reduction in SEA has been promising, rural and urban poverty and its side effect of limited access to food (purchasing and cultivating) remain problematic.
4) Food production instabilities
SEA is vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural disasters. These factors contribute to fluctuations in crop yields, which then cause fluctuations in food prices – this affects the food security of the region, and particularly affects income levels of households whose livelihoods are agriculture-based, limiting their economic access to food.
It is therefore integral that concerted efforts towards overcoming these challenges are undertaken in policymaking and cooperative measures alongside current APT commitments to amplify regional agricultural production.
Last updated on 29/10/2010