Asean Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve 

 Food security is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as “when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Its framework consists of four elements: food availability, access to food, the stability of food supplies and price, and food utilisation, including food security and nutrition. In a global perspective, most of ASEAN Plus Three (APT) countries are generally seen as fertile countries which can produce a variety of food for domestic consumption and export to the world market. However, food security situations in the APT today have been vulnerable so far.


After all this time, the rising frequency and intensity of disasters have increased the number of displaced populations and a greater economic loss. When typhoons dashed into the region, they usually brought torrential rain together and resulted in flash floods and landslides, which injure people and destroy infrastructures. Meanwhile, floods, drought on farmlands, and forest fires damaged crops and devastated agricultural cultivations. Likewise, coastal sea encroachment into farmland also contaminated soil and water sources in these areas with salinity and harmed agricultural products. For example, the intrusion of saltwater caused farmers in Cambodia to face difficulty in growing rice which is the staple food of the region. Viet Nam, the world’s third-largest rice exporter, reduced low-price rice cultivation for exports because the intrusion of saltwater happened in the coastal lowland areas which were mostly used to grow more than half of the total rice production of the country. As a consequence, Viet Nam’s rice reduction would affect other APT countries’ import of rice for domestic consumption such as the Philippines and Indonesia



Later, the sudden and rapid spread of the coronavirus has made the food situation in the region worse. This epidemic came with several restrictions: country lockdowns, closure of food outlets, income losses, and price changes, and immediately impacted food access. The APT faced this crisis which caused financial difficulties for several people, in the Philippines and Indonesia in particular. In 2021, more than 80 percent of households in the Philippines and Indonesia suffered from financial insecurity, causing several people not to have enough money to afford food. In the Philippines, the Department of Social Welfare and Development distributed food packs with an aim to help the poor and people with disabilities. Likewise, people in Indonesia faced difficulties in their consumption due to the temporary suspension of export.



Recently, the Russia-Ukraine war’s far-reaching impacts have crept into the region amid a previous series of unresolved issues and has affected the global food system. A sanction on Russia, one of the world’s top cooking oil and fertiliser producers and exporters, and a blocked route of the world’s largest Ukrainian wheat exports caused many APT countries to face doubled prices of fertilisers and cooking oil, particularly sunflower oil and palm oil. High fertiliser prices contributed to rising prices of food and agricultural commodity and influenced future harvests. Most APT countries then decided to increase the suspension of their exports and turned their focus to food stockpiling for their domestic consumption. For instance, Malaysia suspended chicken export while Viet Nam temporarily stop exporting palm oil. Subsequently, these interruptions raised global food inflation and the higher prices of food. For example, in Indonesia, the food price inflation rose to 8.2 percent in August 2022 while Singapore’s core inflation rate in July 2022 was also the highest in 14 years, at 4.8 percent.



These various problematic situations have impacted on the food security in the APT region as if it never rains but it pours. They create difficulties in selling agricultural commodities across countries such as seeds, fertilisers, and technological supplies, and respectively increase food prices. They later potentially devastate the food system and create long-lasting impacts on vulnerable populations and their access to food and adequate nutrition, especially in poor countries while sufficient food availability is an important factor for survival. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has therefore raised concern on this issue and announced a plan to provide funds over 2022-2025 for easing a worsening food crisis in the region and improving long-term food security.



Fortunately, the problems would be alleviated afterwards due to an improvement in international freight and an effort of several countries to become more self-sufficient. With better situations, that is, several APT countries resumed the logistic operation, the future international imports and exports of food products, ingredients, and fertilisers could be more convenient. The food self-sufficient adaptation of the countries to current food situations could also effectively distribute enough domestic food for their population. Furthermore, according to the meeting of the 17th AMAF Plus Three, these countries have had a mutual vision of strengthening the quality and variety of food production and improving the food value chain, also enhancing them through the effective using mechanism of the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR). All these strategies would subsequently result in the existence of the sustainability of food security.



Bussapailyn Shimphalee*

14 November 2022



* This article is a product of the APTERR Secretariat. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the APTERR Secretariat and its APTERR members.




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