SINGAPORE – Ensuring nations have reliable access to sufficient and affordable food will continue to be on the agenda for future high-level meetings between regional and global leaders, amid uncertain economic conditions and disrupted supply chains.
Food security has been a key area of focus for regional grouping Asean and the Group of 20 (G-20), said Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto on Monday (Aug 29).
During a lecture he was giving in Singapore, Mr Airlangga was asked about Indonesia’s role chairing these two groupings, and what its next steps would be. South-east Asia’s biggest economy is currently the chair of the G-20, and will be assuming the chairmanship for Asean later this year.
Within Asean, member states are now discussing how each one of them will allocate logistics, resources and stocks for the region’s necessary food, he said, adding that the nations had earlier agreed that rice is a staple food item for the region.
Indonesia has taken a similar approach to G-20, said Mr Airlangga. “We use this model also for the G-20 meeting. For food security, we have to understand which commodities that you would like – strategic commodities… for each country is different.
“But the most important is providing multinational financing, and funding that is available to source the food.”
Last month at a two-day meeting in Bali, Indonesia, finance chiefs from the G-20 committed to tackling the worsening food insecurity, but they remained deadlocked over Russia’s role in the crisis.
According to the World Food Programme, a humanitarian aid organisation, 323 million people around the world could face severe food insecurity this year, twice the number before Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine.
Mr Airlangga’s lecture, organised by the Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), was held at the Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay.
His talk touched on the issue of inequality in the region, with Mr Airlangga stressing how Asean member countries must be bold in implementing domestic reforms to achieve inclusive growth.
Although several countries have been able to achieve impressive growth in the past two decades, this comes at the cost of rising income inequality within their societies, he said.
Covid-19 has made this worse, and the minister shared a report by the Asian Development Bank, released in March, which noted that 4.7 million people in the region were plunged into extreme poverty last year as a result of the pandemic.