Food Security in Asia and the Pacific

Publication | August 2013

The report synthesizes and collates the primary findings on food security issues in Asia and the Pacific to articulate key policy challenges and opportunities.

Strong income and population growth, industrialization, and urbanization continue as driving forces behind the fundamental structural change in global food production and market systems. While Asia's economic growth and ongoing structural transformation deepen the complexity in managing the limited natural resources required for food security, many pockets of Asia continue to struggle with high levels of poverty and poor nutrition.

The "two faces of Asia"

The economies of developing Asia and the Pacific grew an average 7.6% a year between 1990 and 2010, far exceeding the 3.4% global average. The rise in affluence in conjunction with growing populations continues to drive greater demand for more protein-rich food and better nutrition. This has enormous implications for the intensity of production. Food consumption in Asia and the Pacific has grown steadily, from 2,379 kilocalories per capita per day in 1990 to 2,665 in 2009. But some 733 million people in the region still live in absolute poverty (defined as living on less than $1.25 a day, in 2005 purchasing power parity); and 537 million remain undernourished. These are the two faces of Asia - one of progress and prosperity; the other of continued poverty.

Key Findings

The main findings from project background studies to highlight key food security issues across the region showed three major themes:

  • ensuring the sustainability of global food systems, to meet growing food demand without sacrificing the resources of future generations; improving the efficiency of food production and delivery; and maximizing the benefits of international trade;
  • reducing poverty and vulnerability to food insecurity, to ensure the ability to purchase sufficient and nutritious food; reducing the price impact on real incomes of poor households; and providing effective social safety nets for those bypassed by rapid economic growth and poverty reduction efforts; and
  • establishing risk management systems and tools, to provide food-based safety nets that offer immediate relief to disadvantaged groups during crises; building adequate emergency food reserves and relief systems as a buffer to natural and human-made disasters; and introducing risk management systems and tools such as crop insurance and futures contracts to help mitigate the effects of price volatility and crises.

About the Report

This synthesis report is the result of close, collaborative research initiated by the Asian Development Bank in partnership with Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada; the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation; and the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. Fourteen background papers were commissioned to investigate food security issues particularly pertinent for Asia and the Pacific. The report synthesizes and collates the primary findings from these papers to articulate key policy challenges and opportunities related to food security in the region.

Contents 

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Food Security: What It Means for Asia and the Pacific
  • Access to Food: Poverty, Nutrition, and the Impact of Food Crises
  • Availability of Food: Competing Demands for Resources, Productivity, and Agricultural Research
  • Transportation, Logistics, and International Trade
  • Climate Change and Food Security
  • Policy Framework for Food Security
  • Summary and Conclusion
  • Appendixes
  • References
  • List of Participants