The spike in global food prices in 2007–08 not only led to riots on several continents; it also reawakened fears about the world’s future ability to feed itself, as growing populations place greater demands on agricultural systems operating in increasingly difficult environmental and climatic conditions.
With more than half the world’s people and high levels of inequality, Asia lies at the centre of the global food-security challenge of the twenty-first century. The region – especially China and India – is drawing on world stocks and importing more staples, as its own farms strain to meet its growing middle classes’ desire for more meat and processed foods. Meanwhile, the smallholder farmers who supply 80% of the continent’s food confront continued poverty, as they struggle to raise output in the face of creeping environmental degradation, looming water shortages and the unpredictable effects of climate change.
As this Adelphi shows, there are no simple solutions. Today, rice is exported while some households still go hungry, unrest grows as land is appropriated for biofuels or industry, and nations compete over waters and fishing rights. Only integrated policies that take into account the complex socio-economic and political aspects of food security have any chance of succeeding.
'Monika Barthwal-Datta provides a comprehensive evidence-based analysis of the
past, current and expected future food security situation in Asia. She identifies the
key drivers of global and Asian food security at the regional, national and household
levels and assesses how these drivers may be influenced by government action. She
concludes – and I agree – that failure to take appropriate action poses a serious
threat to the stability of the region and the rest of the world.’
Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Graduate School Professor, Cornell University; former
Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute; winner of the
2001 World Food Prize
'Ensuring food security is a key strategic challenge of governments, especially in
the developing parts of Asia where the pace of urbanisation is most pronounced.
But unwise policies that fail to make food production sustainable will increase
demand on limited resources of water and energy. This in turn will increase stress
on the environment and exacerbate the impact of climate change. This Adelphi book
provides useful insights into the complexity of this challenge, and some options that
could be usefully considered by governments.’
Peter Ho, former Head of the Singapore Civil Service