Food Security in Asia and the Pacific: ADB's Take | Asian Development Bank

Food Security in Asia and the Pacific: ADB's Take

Article | 5 September 2013

Economic growth has been effective in reducing extreme poverty in Asia and the Pacific, but less so in reducing hunger and malnutrition. ADB is helping people across the region put food on their table by improving the productivity, connectivity, and resilience of food supply chains.

Food security is an issue in Asia and the Pacific. Two-thirds of the nearly one billion hungry people in the world live in the region.

ADB has been helping countries across the region improve food security, working with development partners and supporting agricultural research.

In the past 2 decades of rapid economic growth, social development has been uneven across the region. The study Food Security in Asia and the Pacific notes that rising incomes have led to a shift in dietary patterns toward protein-rich and resource-demanding foods. Yet, more than half a billion people remain undernourished in Asia - more than the total in Africa.

Food Prices

An important factor affecting food security is price spikes in food staples, such as rice and wheat. While rising food prices affect everyone, the impact is greater on the poor, who spend up to 70% of their budget on food.

The study Global Food Price Inflation and Developing Asia looks into the causes of food price increases and their impact on the region. Given the frequency of price spikes in recent years, the report underlines the necessity of long-term solutions to food insecurity - such as improvements in productivity, increases in agricultural investment, stronger market integration, targeting subsidies to the poor, and global and regional cooperation.

The Quiet Revolution in Staple Food Value Chains: Enter the Dragon, the Elephant and the Tiger, produced by ADB and the International Food Policy Research Institute in response to the 2008 spike in food prices, finds that making Asia's farm-to-market supply chains more efficient and cost effective can help the region keep food prices in check and ensure long-term regional food security.

Meanwhile, a series of ADB working papers looks at the global rice situation and how the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can play a critical role in stabilizing world market prices by developing procedures for the use of the regional rice reserves, fostering rice trade through a multi-stakeholder rice trade forum platform, and establishing a more transparent and up-to-date market information system.

ADB research shows food security challenges are complex and multidimensional.

Read the paper on Food Prices and Population Health in Developing Countries, which examines data covering 63 developing countries from 2001 to 2010 and finds that rising food prices have a significant and adverse effect on infant mortality rate, child mortality rate, and the prevalence of undernourishment.

The Gender Equality and Food Security report, jointly prepared by ADB and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), takes an in-depth look at women's role in food production, nutrition, and access to food in the region, and the steps needed to remove the barriers facing them.

Climate Change

Climate change is a major food security challenge in the region with more than 60% of the population relying on agriculture and food production as a source of income.

ADB has sponsored various studies on the effects of climate change. Read the seminal book Building Climate Resilience in the Agriculture Sector of Asia and the Pacific, which quantifies the impact of climate variability in the region's agriculture sector and provides investment and policy recommendations. The report on Food Security and Climate Change in the Pacific assesses the growing threat and impact of climate change on food supply, such as loss of croplands due to rising sea levels. ADB has developed guidelines for climate-proofing investments in irrigation infrastructure and agriculture production projects.

The book Food for All is a collection of the lessons, innovations, and good practices shared during the Investment Forum for Food Security in Asia and the Pacific, organized by ADB, FAO, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development in 2010. Several papers were presented on how best to link smallholder farmers to markets and improve productivity and efficiency through innovative technology and partnerships.