November 13, 2008

Global economic woes threaten Asean region's food security


The global financial crisis is threatening food security in the Asean region as limited financing available for farm cultivation could jeopardize crop output.
That is according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization on Wednesday (November 12, 2008). While production of cereal crops such as rice, wheat and corn by Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries is projected to increase this year from last year, farmers may not be able to sustain output increases next year due to limited credit available for the farm sector, said Purushottam Mudbhary, chief of the policy assistance branch of the FAO's regional office for Asia and the Pacific.


The financial crisis is also expected to limit exports from the region, which in turn could lower income and reduce purchasing power of consumers, Mudbhary said.


"(Food) access will be a problem for those who don't have purchasing power. In this regard, the financial crisis can have an impact on food security," he said.


For the long term, global economic worries could also lead to a reduction of investments in farm implements and other infrastructure, said Mudbhary.


For example, development assistance from international financial institutions to the Asean region's farm sector declined from 18 percent of total overseas development assistance in 1979 to 3.6 percent in 2006, he added.


In a related development, Asean+3, which includes China, Japan and South Korea, will extend its emergency rice reserve program until 2010, said Philippine National Food Authority administrator Jessup Navarro.


The East Asia Emergency Rice Reserve program was piloted in 2005.


The reserve currently stands at 337,000 metric tonnes, following a commitment made by Japan in 2005 to contribute 250,000 tonnes.


China and South Korea, however, are yet to commit anything to the program, said Navarro.


Asean comprises Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

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