Asian Countries Should Increase Rice Reserves To Prevent Food Insecurity, Report Says

A report (.pdf) released on Monday by the Asia Society and the International Rice Research Institute recommends that “Asian countries should increase rice reserves to help stabilize prices and improve food security in the region which is home to about 65 percent of the world’s hungry,” Bloomberg reports (Suwannakij, 9/27).

According to the report, which was “prepared by a group of researchers led by noted agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan, who is also known as the father of India’s Green Revolution, and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman,” economic growth in the region has masked the “true extent of poverty,” PTI/IBN Live News reports. “Nearly two-thirds of the world’s 1.4 billion poor live in Asia and many of them cannot buy food and they do not have land to grow food,” the report said. “The sheer magnitude of poverty and hunger in Asia is often masked by the dynamic macro economies in the region. Beneath that dynamism, however, lie stagnant, even declining levels of welfare for many households,” it adds (9/27). 

The report also addressed agricultural development. After the 2008 food crisis, “governments of developing countries and donor nations, as well as private investors, proposed a wealth of new spending, and industrialized nations committed billions of dollars to promote sustainable agriculture and emergency food assistance,” according to the report, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Some countries with well-developed agricultural markets, including the U.S., have significantly boosted production. But in Asia … some projects aimed at increasing production have been dropped or delayed amid the financial crisis, limiting the gains. Disputes over land ownership, lack of capital and concerns over environmental issues have held back other investments,” according to the newspaper (Barta, 9/26).

“Not only is rice risky to grow, it is risky to sell and trade,” the report observes, Agence France-Presse reports. “One way to lower risks is to increase the level of rice reserves, especially in the large Asian countries that have a deep interest in more stable prices,” the report adds (9/28).

“As Asia’s population continues to grow and to urbanize at unprecedented rates, food insecurity in the region could worsen unless action is taken now,” according to the report, Bloomberg writes. To prevent food insecurity, the report says that rice production needs to grow at about four million metric tons per year, based on current levels of per capita consumption. “Larger stockpiles would ‘cushion price shocks’ and give policy makers more confidence in using the world market as a routine source of supply and demand, it said,” the news service writes.

The report, citing figures from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, says developing countries must raise agriculture investments by 47 percent to $209 billion per year (9/27).

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