JAKARTA, 17 April 2020 - Deeply concerned with the potential impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on ASEAN cooperation in food, agriculture and forestry and the disruption of the food supply chain in the region, the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) issued a Joint Statement on 15 April reaffirming commitment to ensure food security, food safety and nutrition in the region during this outbreak.

The current AMAF Chair Dato Ali Apong, Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism of Brunei Darussalam, expressed his appreciation to his AMAF counterparts for their cooperation and collaboration. He affirmed that ASEAN will continue working to ensure the sustainable supply of sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meet the dietary requirement of ASEAN populations during and after the outbreak of the COVID-19.

While it is too early to assess the full impact of COVID-19, the pandemic-related disruptions on travel and supply chain markets will have potential risks on the availability and prices of food and agriculture produce in the region depending on the duration of the outbreak and the severity of containment measures needed. There will be immediate effects resulting from such measures adopted by several countries, and these measures will also have long-term effects on agriculture and livelihood, including the ASEAN economy on a broader scale.

THE AMAF pledged, among others, to minimise disruptions in regional food supply chains by working closely together to ensure that markets are kept open and transportation of agricultural and food products are facilitated. They also stressed the importance of reducing excessive price volatility particularly price spikes, ensuring adequate emergency food and reserves and providing timely and accurate market information.

The ministers urged the ASEAN Member States (AMS) to implement necessary measures, projects and programmes at the national level to meet the immediate food needs of the ASEAN population, particularly the vulnerable groups in the society. Further, they highlighted the need to boost AMS’ social protection programmes for smallholder farmers, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to increase food production and ensure food security in the region.

Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 essentially needs assessment study to determine the effectiveness of mitigation measures on food security and livelihood. The AMS are discussing a study focusing on the challenges and solutions undertaken by each ASEAN Member State to reduce disruptions in food and agriculture trade before, during and after the COVID-19 outbreak. The study will provide recommendations and advice to all AMS on how to address these challenges effectively.

The full text of the Joint Statement can be accessed here.

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