Food Security Challenges in Asia

Date: October 2013
Type: Papers and Briefs
Agriculture and natural resources; Evaluation
Series: Evaluation Occasional Papers


Despite rapid economic growth, Asia remains home to 67% of the world’s hungry of over 550 million people. Because the poor spend such a large share of their income on food, they have been significantly affected by higher and more volatile food prices, which has been a setback for the region’s achievement in reducing poverty. Food security, therefore, remains a pressing concern in Asia.

This Independent Evaluation Working Paper examines the causes and consequences of the recent escalation and volatility of world food prices, and the implications for Asia and for the Asian Development Bank (ADB). With the region becoming more urban and prosperous, there will be further upward pressure on food price if supply cannot keep pace with demand. The paper warns that if the problems of agricultural productivity are not addressed, it is quite possible that food security will be a recurrent world and regional concern in the coming decades, potentially jeopardizing Asia’s economic growth.

The paper draws attention to four key challenges for policymakers and the development community on food security. First, there is an urgent need to revitalize growth in agricultural productivity and, at the same time, address the increasingly tangible impacts of climate change on agriculture.

Second is the need to ensure that Asia’s 350 million small farmers, typically those working less than 2 hectares, have the opportunity to compete and thrive in modern, food value chains. The third challenge is the persistent problem of malnutrition in preschool children, which has long-run impacts on human capital. And, fourth, the food price crisis revealed the need to give greater attention to the political dimensions of food security when providing economic policy advice to Asian governments.


  • Introduction
  • The Problem
  • Impacts and Resources
  • Prognosis for Asia
  • Key Challenges for Asia
  • Lessons: Has ADB Done Things Well and Could it Do More?
  • Appendix