Source: NST Online
BY PAUL P.S. TENG
According to the 2015 Rice Bowl Index report, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia are relatively robust in their food security preparedness compared with other Asean countries. Pic taken from NST Online
Food security, as a matter of national concern, cannot be considered in isolation from the broader economic, social and physical environments. In recent years, many countries have experienced slower economic growth, affecting disposable income levels and, consequently, consumer spending and food consumption patterns. The physical environment has, likewise, experienced challenges from climate events and continued loss of arable land and freshwater resources.
During the same period, many food commodity prices have also fallen. While this makes food more affordable, it also reduces farm incomes and reduces investment in infrastructure and technology needed to improve overall productivity. A vicious cycle may ensue in which reduced productivity can further reduce farm incomes and a country’s agricultural competitiveness.
That there has been no discernible challenge to food security in the recent past should not be taken to mean that Asean countries have become food secure. In a new normal, Asean, particularly, and Asia, generally, has shown slower economic growth which affected the incomes of many of those who are food insecure. But, with lower commodity prices, food prices generally had also declined. This situation, however, could potentially be a false dawn if events cause food prices to rise irrespective of economic trends and households again have to endure food insecurity.
An index that tracks food security relative to macro-factors is the Rice Bowl Index (RBI) ©, which provides a measure of a country’s ability to withstand disturbances to its food security dimensions — availability, physical and economic access, utilisation and stability. The latest RBI © Report, “New Norm or False Dawn” released late last year, showed that over the preceding 12 months, food security robustness of Asean countries had generally improved, but at a slower pace than in previous years. Read more