The global rise in food prices in the past two years was felt deeply in the Asian region, with greater impact on net food importing countries. The price shift in agricultural commodities has been attributed to the sluggish growth in global food production, in relation to rapid population growth and compounded by extreme weather-related and climate variability. Moreover, food production shortfalls have been linked to competing use of land, water and farm inputs, driven by demands from the export market and more recently, investment priorities in the biofuel market.
However, prevailing agricultural and food policies have been identified as the key contributing factors to the volatility of food prices and in making developing countries vulnerable to global price and supply shocks. The policies of trade liberalization and deregulation in agriculture together with associated structural adjustments have shifted the focus of these countries from food security and self-sufficiency, to market-oriented food production and the promotion of agribusiness for exports. This trend has made them even more dependent on the international market to meet their domestic food consumption.
Recently, the prices of most food crops have dropped significantly from their record highs. International prices for agricultural inputs including fertilizers have also gone down, and yet, farm gate prices of these inputs remain very high. Hence, the decline in agricultural commodity prices should not divert policymakers’ attention from the reality of agricultural markets and the food insecurity of most developing countries. Improper agricultural policies and financial practices have created the high volatility in food costs.
With a steadily growing population, most developing Asian countries are now faced with: declining grain stocks, limitations of land availability for food crops, decreasing government support for rural infrastructure investment and agricultural R&D, increased privatization of agricultural support services, and farmers’ limited access to agricultural inputs. Even though the prices for agricultural commodities have declined, small-scale farmers in most Asian countries are still suffering from high farm gate prices of agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and seeds, coupled with the impact of the financial crisis on the availability of credit, making it difficult for them to increase their agricultural outputs.
In this connection, this seminar will provide an opportunity for scholars, policymakers and experts in agricultural policy in the Asian region to deliberate on the current food security and food policy issues in each country, and to share lessons and insights on policy measures and strategies to promote food production. This activity will particularly take into account the need to empower small-scale farmers to survive the impact of trade liberalization and market-driven agricultural production toward first securing the nation’s food needs.
The primary goal of this seminar is to provide a venue for participating Asian countries to deliberate and exchange views on food security issues in the region and the diverse factors causing the instability and fluctuations in the proces of food products and farm inputs, with the intent to identify sound agricultural and food policy and strategies to mitigate the impacts to small-scale farmers. Specifically, this seminar shall seek: