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ERIA Jointly Organizes the ASEAN Conference on Strengthening Food Security Integration

17 April 2023
ASEANFood Security

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Jakarta, 17 April 2023: A cross-sectoral approach to tackling food security issues was the focus of ‘The ASEAN Conference on Strengthening Food Security Integration’, co-organised by the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), the ASEAN Secretariat, and Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The conference aimed to discuss the core element of the ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on Strengthening Food Security and Nutrition in Times of Crises, and collect inputs and recommendations from stakeholders of related sectors in formulating the Leaders’ Declaration in ASEAN Indonesia Chairmanship 2023.

The hybrid conference was attended by representatives of sectoral bodies from all ASEAN Member States (AMSs), including Senior Officials Meeting of ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (SOM-AMAF), Senior Economic Officials Meeting (SEOM), and Senior Transport Officials Meeting (STOM). Related ASEAN organisations such as ASEAN Food Security Reserve Board Secretariat, ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Reserve Board Secretariat, ASEAN Food Security Information System Secretariat, and some ASEAN dialogue partners also attended. 

Food security issues have been discussed partially and separately in several ASEAN sectoral bodies. For example, the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) mainly address the challenges associated with food availability and production, the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) focus on trade in agricultural commodities and facilitation of the food supply chain, and the ASEAN Transport Ministers (ATM) work on transport logistics and so forth. Thus the need to take cross-sectoral initiatives to overcome issues arising from the unprecedented disruption to the food supply, raised prices, and reduced accessibility, which could lead to food insecurity.

Opening the conference, Ambassador Muhsin Syihab of Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Dr Kasdi Subagyono, Secretary General of Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture said that the gathering was the first opportunity for SOM-AMAF, SEOM, and STOM to discuss food security issues together.

Mr Koji Hachiyama, ERIA’s Chief Operating Officer, said that as a leading think tank in the region, ERIA has an important mission to support the ASEAN Chair, and that ensuring food security and enhancing agriculture productivity are key themes of ERIA’s research and other activities. He explained that digital solutions could be a potential tool for making agriculture and food system more productive and resilient. He recognised, however, that although a recent ERIA study showed the ASEAN region’s high potential to tackle food security issues collectively with the use of digital technologies, gaps still exist in the diffusion of digital agriculture across AMSs. In this regard, he said, ERIA will establish the Centre for Digital Innovation and Sustainable Economy for policymakers, business stakeholders, and academic professionals involved in the transition to digitally driven sustainable economic growth. He announced that ERIA is working with the ASEAN Secretariat to develop an action plan to implement the ASEAN Guidelines for Sustainable Agriculture that was adopted at the 44th AMAF Meeting last year.

Dr Venkatachalam Anbumozhi, ERIA’s Director of Research Strategy and Innovation, presented ‘Food Security: Pillars, Policy Determinants and Regional Actions to Enhance It,’ highlighting the ASEAN region‘s resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic through the wise use of digital technologies and existing regional trade agreements. Recognising the agricultural sector’s vulnerability to climate change, he explained that rapid response to food security and nutrition must be built upon three key levers: (i) supporting institutional implementation through a value chain cluster model for a wide range of products that ensure free trade and profitability, as well as strengthening the delivery of the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve; (ii) promoting and leveraging innovation such as climate-smart agriculture and  food-loss prevention along value chains, including emerging startup ecosystems; and (iii) supporting transparent inclusive markets and risk-mitigating solutions with a focus on small-scale farmers. He concluded by stressing that the improved sustainability and long-term resilience of ASEAN is to be built on food security and climate information, decision-making capacity, and adaptation finance with regional cooperation for an integrated approach.

The conference participants shared various views on food security and inputs to the declaration. The key outcome and deliberations of the conference will be further discussed by the sectoral body on food security in support of Indonesia’s ASEAN chairmanship. Many delegates acknowledged ERIA’s support in developing the ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on Strengthening Food Security and Nutrition in Times of Crises including organisation of this conference.

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