In this hybrid seminar, regional and global experts discuss how Indonesia’s G20 Presidency and ASEAN Chairmanship can deliver on global food security.
This hybrid seminar is the third in a series on regional and global economic issues organised by the Australian National University’s East Asian Bureau of Economic Research (EABER) and the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. The seminar is also supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Singapore.
EABER – ISEAS JOINT HYBRID SEMINAR
Friday, 26 August 2022 – In this seminar, Mr Choi Shing Kwok, CEO and Director of the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute and Head of the ASEAN Studies Centre, and H.E. Ambassador Suryo Pratomo, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Singapore, delivered the opening remarks. Dr Edi Prio Pambudi, Deputy Minister for Coordination of International Economic Cooperation at the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs of Indonesia, delivered the keynote speech.
Mr Choi Shing Kwok began by highlighting how the COVID-19 pandemic, and crop failures, due to climate change and unsustainable agricultural practices, had already put pressure on the global food system. Furthermore, the fraying of regional and global cooperation in food security in recent years has resulted in increased food nationalism. The war in Ukraine further exacerbated this issue by pushing up global food, energy and fertiliser prices. With food security an urgent global concern, Indonesia had deftly recalibrated the agenda of its G20 presidency and put global food security as a central priority issue to deal with these shocks. Emphasising Indonesia’s global standing and strong belief in multilateralism, he believed that Indonesia was well placed to drive action in tackling the global crisis through both its G20 Presidency and upcoming ASEAN Chairmanship in 2023.
H.E. Ambassador Suryo Pratomo discussed how global circumstances had created inevitable disruptions in the global food supply and soaring food prices. He stated that the issue of global food security required close cooperation of all states on three issues: (i) investment to increase agricultural productivity; (ii) diversification of food production and imports; and (iii) implementation of non-discriminatory trade in agricultural products. With food security as one of Indonesia’s key priorities in its G20 Presidency and 2023 ASEAN Chairmanship, he shared Indonesia’s hopes to inculcate the views of the developing countries at the G20 as well as harness the regional resources of ASEAN member states to boost production and reduce import dependency.
Dr Edi Prio Pambudi highlighted the worrying trend of increasing food insecurity which was exacerbating post-pandemic global chronic undernourishment. Noting the numerous past G20 initiatives to tackle food security, he shared Indonesia’s continued efforts in this regard by focusing on three priority issues: (i) promoting resilient and sustainable agriculture and food systems; (ii) promoting open, fair, predictable, transparent and non-discriminatory agricultural trade to ensure food availability and affordability for all; and (iii) promoting innovative agri-preneurship through digital agriculture to improve farmers’ livelihood in rural areas. Similarly, ASEAN had also launched programmes to improve food reserve management and price stability. However, the absence of implementation mechanisms has hindered the efficacy of proposed solutions at both fora. In its upcoming ASEAN Chairmanship, Dr Pambudi shared Indonesia’s hopes to transform ASEAN into a region with food security resilience by unifying and strengthening regional food supply chains and logistics systems, through ASEAN Leaders Declaration on Strengthening Food Security, as well as developing a Roadmap for the implementation of the ASEAN Guidelines of Sustainable Agriculture. Lastly, he stated that resolving this crisis was crucial to maintaining regional social stability.
The panel comprised Prof. Peter Timmer, Cabot Professor of Development Studies, Emeritus, at Harvard University, Prof. Mari Elka Pangestu, Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships at the World Bank, and Prof. Paul Teng, Dean and Managing Director at the National Institute of Education International (NIEI). Prof. Peter Drysdale, Emeritus Professor of Economics, and Head of EABER at the Australian National University, chaired the discussion.
Prof. Peter Drysdale kicked off the discussion by highlighting that Indonesia was best placed to deal with food security issues as G20 host given its leadership status in the developing world, its central role within ASEAN, its outward-looking and inclusive economic development ethos as well as its posture of independence and non-alignment amidst global powers. He believed that Indonesia’s convening power could bolster global cooperation on food security, which has been exacerbated by a multitude of challenges – post-pandemic recovery, economic consequences of the Ukraine war, deteriorating multilateral governance, and climate change impacts – that need to be tackled cohesively. Within food security, he emphasised the importance of tackling the interlinked structural issue of reducing poverty and increasing access of the vulnerable to food and nutrition.
Prof. Peter Timmer emphasised the importance of conserving the global commons and of food security to countries’ sovereignty. Comparing the current food supply shortage to previous food crises, he highlighted the importance of preventing a speculative bubble of commodity prices that may lead to mass panic, and for importing countries to strike a balance between building up emergency food reserves and hoarding. Referencing ASEAN’s quiet diplomacy during the 2011 rice shortage, he highlighted the importance of cooperation and communication between states to maintain efficient food supply flows and stable prices. He concluded that priority should be placed on minimising the impact on global food supplies by limiting trade barriers and increasing cooperation.
Prof. Mari Elka Pangestu noted that climate change had an even greater impact on today’s food security issues than before and that long-term solutions should include increasing food production capacity and crop resilience to climate change. She stated that G20 and ASEAN states should aim to maintain current trade flows, diversify production and increase domestic productivity. Cautioning against blanket price controls which exacerbate inflation, she recommended that food prices be allowed to naturally adjust to supply and demand forces but that targeted social protection schemes be in place for the vulnerable to cushion the impact of inflation. She noted the disproportional impact of the food crisis on women who would generally eat less in order to help other household members. She also advocated the need to address other long-term drivers of climate change such as mistargeted farming subsidies. Nevertheless, should price controls or export restrictions be necessary, it should follow G20 and WTO guidelines of being targeted, temporary and transparent. Lastly, she believed that increasing supply chain connectivity and trade facilitation, addressing the short- and long-term drivers of food insecurity, and greater transparency on Tariffs and Non-Tariff Measures should be key focus areas at the G20 and ASEAN fora.
Prof. Paul Teng advocated for more timely and transparent sharing of information on food stocks and reserve flows such as through the G20 Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) or the ASEAN Food Security Information System (AFSIS) as strategies of preventing speculation and panic. This would allow states to develop effective mitigative interventions for global food supply issues. He also called for Indonesia to use its clout to limit the economically self-defeating practice of food export bans and to push for greater supply chain continuity in agreements. At the G20 level, he called for more financial commitment to support the notable recommendations in promoting resilient and sustainable production systems. At the ASEAN level, Indonesia could play a vital role in improving coordinating and implementation mechanisms within the bloc vis-à-vis food security measures. He proposed greater regional food resilience by investing in research and development in growing tropical varieties of heavily imported crops (e.g. soybeans, wheat, corn), increasing yield gaps in rice production, and optimally allocating food growing capacities to the different member states. Greater investment should be placed in biotechnology and digital agriculture. Lastly, he emphasised the importance of an evidence-based approach to inform policymaking as well as the importance of soft power and coordination in ASEAN’s collective approach to food security.
The Q&A discussion touched on relevant issues including transferable lessons from tackling the global pandemic, concrete short- and long-term measures to address the drivers of food security, as well as operationalisation of socio-economic strategies to deal with food inflation costs.
The hybrid seminar was attended by 127 participants from the region and beyond.
Download the Welcome Remarks here.