Asean should deal with food security concerns

The bloc should come together and assess what regional mechanisms it can leverage in addressing the looming threat of food trade protectionism within the region.

Trucks loaded with oil palm fruit parked at a factory in Siak regency, in Indonesia’s Riau province, last month. PHOTO: REUTERS
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The ongoing war in Ukraine has raised serious concerns about global food security. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) food price index reached an all-time high in March, surpassing price levels in 2007-2008 during the last global food price crisis. The impact of the war on food security is best captured by the FAO's director-general, who said "the most significant threats (to food security) stem from conflict, and the associated humanitarian impact, together with multiple overlapping crises".

The escalating events and hike in food prices have led some countries to resort to protectionist policies, further aggravating food security concerns. India, for example, has imposed an export ban on wheat - one of the staples most affected by the ongoing war. In South-east Asia, Indonesia's ban on palm oil exports and Malaysia's recent ban on chicken exports portend further protectionist actions by other countries in responding to the fluidity in the global food supply chain. Such trends require urgent collective efforts by countries in the region to address a looming disaster that can lead to cascading threats to human security. What can Asean do to respond to the shared threat of food insecurity?

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