ASEAN regulators and business review agriculture sector for food security solutions

ASEAN’s public and private sectors joined forces to discuss sustainable and affordable agriculture and food production policy actions to avoid another food price crisis, at the 2nd ASEAN Food Security Conference in Manila.

“ASEAN recognizes that the private sector plays a critical role in food security, identifying gaps in policies and helping governments to promote trade, market access and investment along the whole food value chain. It is vital that policymakers and industry work together to keep the food supply of our region secured, efficient and productive. The ASEAN leaders see food security as a continuous high priority agenda as we build a people-oriented ASEAN community”, said S.Pushpanathan, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN.

The aim of the conference was to stimulate dialogue between food and agribusiness companies and the public sector, and to seek input from the private sector on policy development. Issues discussed included how to improve food production, reduce post-harvest losses and strengthen rural-market linkages. Participants also examined how other regions have addressed food security concerns.

The conference recommended the following to the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry:
  1. Harmonization of agricultural technology risk assessment guidelines, the establishment of an ASEAN technical working group on risk assessment, and the separation of biosafety from other criteria for risk management decision making;
  2. Encouragement of technology transfer and information sharing regarding alternative agricultural production technologies, respecting the importance of allowing agricultural producers to choose the technologies that best suit their needs;
  3. Launch of an initiative to increase stakeholder awareness of the importance of post-harvest losses and develop locally and product-specific customized management strategies to reduce them;
  4. Development of a common approach to reducing the policy uncertainties that constrain private investment, given the crucial role played by national policy environments in determining market signals, which in turn shape private sector investments in improved grain drying and milling capacity, reduce losses, and lead to higher quality end-products; and
  5. Promotion of strategies to improve rural-market linkages that a) help cover some of the risk and high transaction costs borne as a result of working with smallholder farmers; b) provide extension advice, training, and organizational support to farmers using information technology, recognizing that these will increasingly come from the private sector and civil society; and c) recognize the importance of providing the appropriate enabling environment to encourage private contract farming.
Another food security conference will follow in Jakarta, in September, to look at food trade in the region and how streamlined trading practices can improve food security. Recommendations from the two events will be tabled for consideration by ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry at their annual meeting in October.

The conference was funded and organized by the USA Department of State and USA Agency for International Development-funded ASEAN-US Technical Assistance and Training Facility.