Genevieve Donnellan-May, Asia Society Policy Institute Research Associate
In the past few years, Asia has experienced a series of crises fueled by food security conflicts, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, causing major disruptions in food supply systems and increasing the number of people experiencing food insecurity. Now, pressure on the Red Sea and the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal and four global 'food chokepoints' due to geopolitical unrest Mississippi River Drought further threatens food security in Asia.
Disruptions to the global flow of goods have a far-reaching impact. They affect trade in agricultural products, with delayed delivery times, price hikes and product shortages distorting competition between markets. Long shipping times can make some perishable foods unsalable. and shipping schedule may be subject to change Pressure will increase Cargo handling and road transport.
For Asian countries that rely on food exports and imports, the potential consequences are worrisome. Food producers and exporters may experience profit margins that induce lower wages for workers, while food importers may experience higher prices due to transportation costs and higher price volatility, leading to changes in consumption.
Countries across Asia, many of which are net food importers, are particularly hard hit by food chokepoint disruptions as they rely on European and Black Sea markets for key agricultural commodities such as soybeans, corn, wheat and edible oils. Notably, Singapore and Hong KongPeople with limited natural resources, imports More than 90% their food and already Vulnerable Export restrictions and global food price fluctuations. There is also ongoing concern about sustainable food supplies in Japan More than 60% Food is imported.
In poor countries, disruptions in food imports and subsequent food and energy price inflation Cost of living Crisis, increase in poverty and hinder socio-economic development. It will be a major blow to those already reeling from crises such as Pakistan (extreme weather events), Bangladesh and Myanmar (conflict) and Sri Lanka (economic turmoil). It will also disproportionately affect families Philippines They spend 31% of their income on food, among low-income households Indonesia They spend up to 64% of their budget on food, which increases the risk of undernourishment and malnutrition.
As evidenced by the Ukraine-Russia conflict, prolonged disruptions to supply chains and key trade routes could heighten geopolitical tensions across Asia, where fears of countries weaponizing food and fertilizer supplies against each other are already heightening food insecurity concerns. This makes it imperative for governments across the region to implement significant reforms to build resilience in supply systems and better prepare for food shortages.
To begin with, Asian governments should implement food import diversification strategies. For example, Singapore has already done this. is increasing The number of food import sources from around 140 countries in 2004 will increase to 180 in 2022. This could be a reason for Singapore ranking in 2022 Second Second only to Australia for having the most affordable food in the world, the average household spends 20% of its monthly expenditure on food.
To further increase resilience, Asian countries must work together to coordinate and implement investment in regional food supply chains. Early warning systems For climate monitoring. Clear oversight of food chokepoints, price volatility and extreme weather events will help countries in the region respond quickly and efficiently to sudden changes.
Finally, increasing agricultural powerhouses in the region, such as Australia and New Zealand, could contribute to ensuring food security in Asia. Export of grains and cooking oils for the region.
Asia's food supply systems are particularly vulnerable to both external shocks and domestic pressures. Disruptions increase food price inflation and both increase the risk of malnutrition in already affected countries. Asian governments should urgently build resilience in their food trade routes through policies such as food import diversification so that the region is better prepared for future food security challenges.
This article appeared first Strategist.
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