Opening remarks by Bambang Susantono, ADB Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, at the UN Food System Summit 2021 Independent Dialogue, 28 June 2021

Good evening, good afternoon or good morning to our distinguished panelists, colleagues, and guests.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the UN Food System Summit 2021 Independent Dialogue, jointly organized by ADB and IFAD. As you know, the UN Food Systems Summit is only 3 months away. Several pre-summit dialogues, including this one, will work to develop pragmatic solutions to meet our summit goals.

In this session, ADB and IFAD have joined hands to discuss our policy, finance, and research priorities. The goal is to find ways to both promote the production and consumption of good food with a reduced environmental footprint.

Food systems, global and institutional goals

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global economic growth and further derailed progress in meeting the sustainable development goals, including those that target food and health insecurity.

Food systems impact SDG 1 on eradicating poverty, SDG 2 on wiping out hunger, and SDG 3 on ensuring health and wellbeing. They also affect SDG 12 on consumption and production, SDG 13 on climate, SDG 14 on life under water, and SDG 15 on life on land. Several of ADB’s Strategy 2030 priorities also aim to help strengthen resilient and sustainable food systems, which will play a vital role in achieving these goals. We are working ever more closely with our developing members to promote a green, inclusive, and resilient pandemic recovery.    

Balanced protein: A concern in RSFS in Asia

Medical science tells us the importance of balanced protein intake. Yet, at the same time, economics and social trends tell us that as per capita income rises, dietary preference changes in favor of animal protein. We need to develop policies that nudge people more toward a balanced protein intake. This is particularly true as our Asia and Pacific region continues to grow and create wealth.

Since 1961, meat production in Asia, has grown significantly. Overall, it increased by a factor of 15 between 1961 and 2017. Over the same period, it grew about 33 times in the PRC, 13 in Viet Nam, 10 in Philippines, and 9 in Indonesia. And while livestock accounts for a large share of agricultural production in Mongolia, meat production merely doubled between 1961 and 2017.

Between 1961 and 2017, per capita vegetable consumption also increased, but not at the same pace. Notable increases were in the PRC, Viet Nam, and Nepal. But across much of Asia, the increase was minimal. In the Philippines and Thailand, it actually declined. Per capita vegetable consumption in Asia, excluding the PRC, is below that of North America and Europe.

Food-feed competition: Impediment to the prospect of RSFS?

The resources used in livestock and dairy production are already disproportionately high. As you can see from the slide, just 29% of our planet is land, of which 71% is habitable. About 50% of this habitable land is agricultural — meaning we can use just 10% of our earth to produce food. Yet we are already using 77% of agricultural land for livestock and dairy production.

In contrast, only 18% of our global calorie and 37% of our global protein supply come via meat and dairy products. As the global population continues to rise and meat consumption increases, we must re-think and re-strategize how to better balance both the consumption and production of animal- and plant-based food—if we are to meet our future demand for calories and protein.

We are very conscious of this at ADB. We will proactively use our knowledge capacity and financial instruments to meet these challenges, in support of our developing members and in collaboration with our partners.

ADB’s support to RSFS: Investments

How do we do this?

One priority is to channel our investment in vegetable and livestock sectors in such a way that their relative prices favor a more balanced and healthy diet. How consumers respond to the price of commodities, production and supply determine relative market prices, while the amount of investment helps determine production and supply. This important nexus is why ADB invests in both vegetable and livestock value chains, while complementing such investments with policy, institutional, and capacity development support to our countries.

As you can see, our investments in agricultural and rural development increased four times over the past decade. Over the last 5 years, investments in vegetable and livestock value chains increased with the exception of the early pandemic period.

ADB’s support to RSFS: Knowledge

Importantly, we are also doing more knowledge work in support of horticulture value chains and food system transformation. For example, we completed a cross-country analysis to promote the production of fruit and vegetables—and reduce postharvest losses—in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Viet Nam. That helped identify new investment opportunities. Similar studies are underway in India and the Philippines.

Increased vegetable production offers the opportunity for more vegetable consumption, particularly in rural areas. This will help provide essential nutrients and vitamins to support a balanced diet. We are also working with our international partners and national think-tanks to develop customized, knowledge solutions that match local needs.

Experience-sharing and knowledge exchange are important part of these efforts. ADB, in this regard, holds biennial Rural Development and Food Security Forum to bring together experts, policy makers, and stakeholders to discuss the more topical subjects. Our next forum is scheduled tentatively for November 2021.

ADB’S catalytic role in financing RSFS

Going forward, we are now developing an Innovative Natural Capital Financing Facility to attract natural capital investments and offer knowledge solutions to build better food systems and promote a more balanced diet.

The facility has 3 pillars—a Natural Capital Lab, an Agribusiness Service Platform, and a Natural Capital Fund. The lab is a living and virtual platform to incubate, accelerate and expand natural capital investments. It leverages existing accounting tools to quantify the ecosystem service value of green agricultural value chains. It also strengthens eco-compensation for ecological services, which in turn incentivizes farmers to adopt new practices.

To conclude, let me emphasize that the post-pandemic recovery offers us the unique opportunity to transform our global food system to make it more resilient to future shocks.

Let us work together, through this dialogue and beyond, to promote a safe, nutritious, and balanced diet for future generations. Thank you.


    Susantono , Bambang
    Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development