Jakarta – American and regional agricultural and food processing companies in Southeast Asia met with ASEAN agricultural officials this week to develop ways to ensure an affordable, sustainable and nutritious supply of food for the ASEAN region. Regional farmers’ associations and think tanks joined the meetings. Private sector participants stressed to ASEAN Agricultural Ministers that to achieve free trade in food commodities in Southeast Asia, ASEAN needs to move quickly to introduce a harmonized approach to standards, notifications, registrations, quarantines, certifications and inspections.
Companies including Cargill, DuPont, PT. Indofood, and CP of Thailand attended the ASEAN Food Security Conference on Regional Food Trade & Investment, sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Mission to ASEAN, and the ASEAN Secretariat. The conference produced a set of recommendations that highlighted how efficient food trade can boost food security in ASEAN. Private sector representatives discussed their recommendations directly with ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry in their first-ever formal dialogue with the private sector on October 6. The Ministers and private sector participants discussed institutionalizing this public-private dialogue.
In his opening speech, H.E. Mr. San Vanty, Under Secretary of State for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for the Kingdom of Cambodia, said “The connection between production and trade plays an essential role in the development of agriculture. It adds value to agricultural products and creates jobs for rural people, thereby increasing income and reducing poverty. In this regard, the involvement and contribution of the private sector are top of the agenda in development policy.”
Over 100 ASEAN-based companies, agricultural associations, and government officials active in food trade, food safety and regulations met over three days to discuss ways to make ASEAN food trade more efficient through better regulations and transparency, and possible improvements to food safety and standards.
“A harmonization of economic, trade, and investment policies across ASEAN member-states offers the best opportunity for the private sector to make their maximum contribution to food security throughout the region and help feed the region’s growing population,” U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN David L. Carden told meeting participants. Ambassador Carden challenged attendees to broaden the conversation on food security to consider related problems of climate change, deforestation, the health of waterways and oceans, pandemic preparedness, law enforcement, illegal fishing, decisions concerning land use and energy, and, how financial institutions can and should work with agribusiness, governments, and local farmers on innovative ways to hedge against price fluctuations.
The regional conference was hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture in Indonesia. In his opening address the Secretary General of the Ministry, Mr. Hari Priyono, said “We need to join our effort, both policy makers and private sector as one of the actors who implement this policy. I believe the outcome of this forum will enrich our leaders’ point of view in seeing difficulties of ensuring food availability, food access and food security for our people.”
In the historic meeting between Ministers and the private sector, participants recommended the following actions in addition to harmonizing standards:
- Agricultural sector diagnostics are needed to benchmark agricultural sector and food security policies among ASEAN states.
- Empower ASEAN’s farmers through access to new and sustainable technologies, knowledge of national and regional public regulations and private standards, and appropriate incentives, in order to significantly increase agricultural productivity.
- Expand the food security dialogue to include ministries of economy, finance, trade, agriculture, health, and environment, as food security is a multisectoral topic.
The 3rd ASEAN Food Security Conference: Regional Food Trade & Investment was organized by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development-funded ASEAN-U.S. Technical Assistance and Training Facility.