Sixteen ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on September 12 to strengthen agricultural cooperation and ensure food security across the region.
The visit is part of the 37th meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) hosted by the Philippines this year.
“It is high time for ASEAN member countries, which are in the largest rice-growing regions of the world to support the scientific research necessary for the sustainability of their rice sectors,” said Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships of IRRI.
Tolentino said IRRI is fulfilling its crucial role in providing the scientific foundation, technical support, and capacity-building to each of the ASEAN member-countries “in pursuing their own national rice and food security programs.”
Each ASEAN member-nation has its own strategy and approach in meeting targets in this area.
Some Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam and Thailand, export rice, while the Philippines and Indonesia, among others, are rice importers.
Myanmar is on its way to regaining its agricultural competitiveness. In the 1950s, Myanmar led the ASEAN countries in rice exports.
Brunei and Singapore, on the other hand, do import rice, and only the best quality rice. Moreover, Singapore is making investments to become the ASEAN cen¬ter for biotechnology.
“So, each of these countries has differing approaches to achieving their food security goals. But all of these countries are bound together because there is a common ASEAN-wide framework for food security,” Tolentino explained.
That framework, according to him, which also includes a strategic action plan on food security, does not simply focus on strengthening the national capacity of each of the ASEAN member countries to produce any agricultural commodity, but also facilitation of trade.
The strategic action plan was conceptualized as part of the ASEAN member states’ need for a long-term agricultural development plan that focuses on sustainable food production and trade, especially in the context of problems brought about by the food crisis in 2007 to 2008.
The ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework, along with the Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security in the ASEAN Region, enables sharing of any agricultural commodity.
A close inspection of various countries reveals variation in natural resources for rice production. This is also the case for other crops and agricultural commodities.
“In effect, there will be a country agenda and there will be a regional agenda, tied together by trade. ASEAN countries could look at exporting high-quality rice to, say, Europe, for example. And Africa is a major growth area because of its rising demand for rice. All these topics, including IRRI’s support to the Philippine Department of Agriculture’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program will be part of the discussions during the ASEAN event next week,” he noted.
Aside from the 37th AMAF, the Philippines is also hosting the 15th AMAF Plus Three Meetings with China, Japan, and South Korea this year.