2013 Food Security Regional Dialogue-Medan: Origins of issues, short and long-terms policy options

Food insecurity can be driven by various factors. The factors can be classified into three factors, namely economic, social and environmental aspects. At the 2013 Food Security Regional Dialogue in Medan North Sumatera, Indonesia, Don Gunasekera of CSIRO and Professor Christopher Findlay of University of Adelaide explain the origins of food security issues and short-term and long-term policy options.

Erwidodo (ICASEPS), Anna Strutt (University of Waikato), Randy Stringer and Christopher Findlay (University of Adelaide)

Food insecurity can be driven by factors including structural factors and market failures, food price volatility, societal vulnerabilities, gender issues, etc. Structural factors and market failures include inequality in access to land and water, insecurity in smallholder land tenure, underinvestment in agriculture. The challenges are becoming evident when data suggest upward price trend over the past decade with volatility. Global food prices have been closely tracking fossil fuel prices. The price volatility mostly affects poor people. In terms of real prices, food prices compared to a decade ago are high.

Regarding societal vulnerabilities, urban food insecurity is more significant than rural poor insecurity. Here, food insecure people are defined bas per capita food consumption for a country or income decile falls short of the nutritional target of 2,100 Kcals/person/day. In Asia, the share of population belong to food insecure people have been decreasing.  But the story from Africa is quite different.

Regarding gender issues, 43 per cent of developing country agricultural labour force are women, 50 per cent in East Asia and Africa and 20 per cent in Latin America. Under performance of developing country agriculture is partly because women have less access to inputs (eg fertiliser), land, water, equipment, extension and credit. If women had better access to productive resources, yield on their farms would increase by 20-30 per cent.

Failures in institutional governance may explain food insecurity. Governments are often unable to respond rapidly and predictably to changing markets and other social and environmental challenges.

Don Gunasekera (CSIRO) at Medan dialogue

Short-term policy options include promotion of market information (ie AMIS), market-based risk management schemes (future contract, option contracts on food imports, transparent emergency food assistance); raising food supply from smallholder farmers, reforms to distortionary trade policies and management of macroeconomic implications. Trade policy reform is important given that domestic market insulating policies raised 40 per cent of the world price of rice in 2007-2008. Social safety nets should be distributed directly to the poor.

Long-term policy measures include reducing losses across supply chains, well-functioning global food markets, raising agricultural R&D, better-managed ecosystems, and well-functioning social protection systems. One third of food produced is lost or wasted globally each year. Hence, the need to increase production and productivity would be reduced by reducing food losses and waste. This is important not only for developing but also developed countries. Reasons include limited access to finance and technical assistance and other resources. In addition, global agricultural trade minimises the adverse impacts of external shocks. Nevertheless, long-term productivity growth is unlikely to be achieved without investments in R&D. Whilst food security concepts may vary between countries, interaction of policy matters.


*The session was summarised by Risti Permani (University of Adelaide) and subject to her personal views.

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