Singapore, 15-17 April 2010

Professor Eduardo Araral, Assistant Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy;

Distinguished speakers and resource persons;

Distinguished Representatives of Development Partners and Civil Society Organisations;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

It is an honour and privilege for me to deliver a keynote address at this Consensus/Colloquium on “Securing Food in ASEAN; Food Security in the World”. At the outset, I would like to express my appreciation to the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, my alma mater, for taking the initiative in organising this Colloquium. My appreciation also goes to resource persons, speakers, representatives from the Development Partners and Civil Society Organisations for joining the event and taking part in the deliberation on food security, which is a priority agenda of the Leaders of ASEAN and the world today.

Food Security and Global Challenges

The demand-supply equilibrium of food is becoming less stable. The increase in cultivable land world-wide is marginal; climate change continues to affect agriculture; conversion of food for energy use is on the rise; transboundary animal and plant diseases pose increasing threats to food production; and agricultural commodity prices continue to fluctuate highly.

Compounding this, the world population continues to growth at a phenomenal rate and at the same time the population is ageing. According to FAO, global food production must be doubled to feed the world’s population currently standing at 6 billion and expected to rise to 9 billion by 2050. It is estimated that over 100 million people are newly at risk of hunger as a result of this threat. We may be confronting a situation where our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) may be further hindered.

It is important for all of us here to recognise that securing food for the people is not merely having enough rice or grains to consume. The World Food Summit held in 1996 has provided a holistic perspective to food security, which still holds true to date. “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” In short, food security can be achieved when “availability”, “accessibility”, “safety” and “nutrition” dimensions of food are attained.

Over the last three years, we witnessed a high degree of uncertainty in the global economy. This started off first with the high fuel cost, then the soaring food price followed by the sub-prime fallout and global financial and economic crisis. The 3Fs crisis of fuel, food and financial have placed a heavy strain on many developed and developing countries, including ASEAN.

The recent global economic crisis has emerged as yet another challenge, particularly to food security. According to the Asian Development Bank, average economic growth in Asia in 2009 was about half of that in 2008. This has adversely affected the demand for agricultural products and household income from off-farm employment, remittances and tourism. Investment in agriculture was affected by the reduced flow of foreign direct investment and official development assistance.

The effects of the recession in the developed world are already felt in the region in terms of rising unemployment in manufacturing, construction and services sectors. The International Labour Organization has warned that this recession might add more than 30 million people to the pool of unemployed by the end of 2009. A significant part of those losing jobs migrate back to their roots in rural areas, creating further pressure on arable area and the environment. While ASEAN and most countries in Asia are on the recovery and growth trajectory now, however, the impact from the crisis have deeply entrenched itself thereby making securing food for the people even more challenging.

The structural solution to the problem of food security in the world lies in increasing production and productivity, particularly in the low-income food-deficit countries. This has called for innovative solutions, besides official development assistance.

Partnership arrangements are needed between countries that have financial resources, management capabilities and technologies and countries that have land, water and human resources. This should be coupled with dialogue based on objective analysis of the root causes and devoid of partisan and short-term interests. Only in this way, will it be possible to provide a common ground to establish understanding and identify short-to-medium term responses in a concerted, comprehensive and coherent manner to mitigate any possible impact to ensure long-term food security, enabling food production and trade, and the eventual sustainable agricultural development in the region and the world.

Food Security Integral to ASEAN Community-Building

Agriculture is a critical contributor to the food- and agro-based industries of ASEAN Member States. Agriculture will continue to serve as one of the engine of growth for the overall economy of ASEAN. Moreover, with rice being the staple food for the peoples of ASEAN and the world, agriculture will continue to receive special attention for reason of assuring food security.

ASEAN cooperation in food and agriculture has been focused on the enhancement of food and agricultural production, improvement of farmers’ livelihood, promotion of agriculture investment, and creating conducive market and fair trade. The cooperation has been echoed in various ASEAN strategic policies and work programmes, particularly the ASEAN community-building process, which is to be realised by 2015.

As a strategic approach to addressing long-term food security and improvement of the livelihoods of farmers in the ASEAN region, the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework and Strategic Plan of Action on ASEAN Food Security (SPA-FS) has been developed and endorsed by the ASEAN Leaders at their 14th Summit in February 2009. The Leaders also strongly encouraged partnership with concerned institutions and agencies, dialogue partners and international organisations to pursue this important endeavour. The Food Security Framework and the Strategic Plan of Action are regarded as crucial and timely considering the importance of food security in the process of the community building in ASEAN and the current global financial and economic crisis.

After one year of implementation, it is important for ASEAN to look back on progress and update the food security situation in the region and in the global context in order to refine the course of future actions. Strengthening food security arrangements at national and regional levels; promoting conducive food market and trade; obtaining sound and timely food security information for planning and management; broadening agricultural innovation for food security, and addressing impacts of climate change will continue to be strategic areas towards long-term food security in the region.

As core initiatives addressing food security in the region, the ASEAN Plus Three countries have agreed to transform the East Asia Emergency Rice Reserve (EAERR) Pilot Project, which ended in February 2010 to a permanent scheme called the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Ric

e Reserve (APTERR). APTERR is envisaged to provide a more solid platform of regional response to food shortage under emergency circumstances in the future. Agreement among the countries have also been made to broaden the scope and generate food security and surveillance tools of ASEAN Food Security Information System (AFSIS) in order to provide sound and timely information for policy decision on food security. These are among the attempts to step up efforts towards long-term food security in the region.

I also strongly believe that we have an important role as global citizens to ensure that we are able to produce, not only for us, but also for the global community. So I am certain that the plan we have been implementing, the Strategic Plan for Food Security, takes care of that.

Concluding Remarks

Food security issues are complex and finding solutions would also naturally require the involvement of all the stakeholders, including the public sector, private enterprises, academes, regional inter-governmental bodies, international institutions, civil society and, most importantly, the people who are affected. It is a question of priorities and choices to be made by Governments that determine the allocation of resources.

We must take actions based upon collective wisdom and insights. As such, concerted efforts and enhanced collaboration and partnership among all sectors of the Community is therefore imperative towards sustainable development of agriculture, food security, and well-being and livelihoods of the over 580 million people of ASEAN and the rest of the World.

In a people-centred ASEAN Community this must continue to be priority and I am confident that with the comprehensive agenda for food security in ASEAN and the active collaboration with our stakeholders and partners, we will be able to achieve this.

I wish all of you a successful meeting. Thank you.