ASEAN on Point Public Forum: Ensuring the Resilience and Sustainability of the Agriculture and Food Sector in ASEAN in the Context of COVID-19
In response to the global coronavirus pandemic, the ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC) and the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), will co-host a series of public forums – ‘ASEAN on Point’ - to address issues of importance to the advancement of ASEAN. The forums will provide a platform to bring together representatives of diverse stakeholders to share knowledge on the latest research and insights on relevant topics on post-pandemic recovery in order to inform the policy discourse. It is hoped that the insights and recommendations from the forums can contribute to different sectoral work in ASEAN towards recovery. The vision of these Forums is to ‘Build Back Better’ so that the region’s recovery policies result in a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable region.
With over a hundred million hectares of agricultural land, ASEAN is a major producer, supplier, and exporter of various crops and grains, particularly rice. ASEAN is the world’s largest producer of palm oil and natural rubber and raises a considerable amount of livestock. The COVID-19 pandemic, which is disrupting every economy-supporting sector in the ASEAN region, is expected to pose challenges to trade, investment, and economic growth. The agriculture and food sector is one of the most vulnerable sectors affected by the pandemic as it is heavily linked with key economic factors such as global agricultural commodities trade in the region (trade and regional integration), and more importantly, food supply and food security (trade and sustainable development).
While the supply of food has held up well to date, in many countries, the measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus are starting to disrupt the supply of agro-food products to markets and consumers, both within and across borders. How damaging these impacts will be for food security, nutrition, and the livelihoods of farmers and others working along the food supply chain will depend in large part on policy responses over the short, medium and long term.
On 14 April 2020, the Statement of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) in Response to the Outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) to Ensure Food Security, Food Safety and Nutrition in ASEAN was issued to contribute to overcoming the challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and to ensure the sustainable supply of sufficient, affordable, safe and nutritious foods that meet the dietary requirements of the ASEAN populations. One of the commitments from the AMAF is to further exchange views and collaboration in food, agriculture and forestry development with other sectors and partners to address the adverse impacts of COVID-19. The AMAF will strive to keep ASEAN food, agriculture and forestry strong during the COVID-19 outbreak by continuously maintaining production, supporting value chains and ensuring access to the workforce.
The first Forum focused on the opportunity to reset towards more sustainable growth, highlighting the challenges faced by the agriculture and food sector as well as discussing policy options for the agriculture and food sector in ASEAN to overcome the adverse impact of COVID-19.