📅 26 August 2021 🕒 1:30–3:15 p.m. (GMT+8)
While many countries continue to intervene in agro-food markets with various agricultural policies, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of food systems in Asia and the Pacific. International food prices have been rising since May 2020, recording the twelfth consecutive monthly rise to their highest value since September 2011, bringing the Index only 7.6 percent below its peak value in February 2011. From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments moved swiftly to keep agricultural supply chains functioning, including by designating agriculture and food as essential sectors.
While Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries were generally successful in maintaining the overall functioning of food supply chains, food insecurity risk increased in ADB’s developing member countries (DMCs). The latest estimates show that the prevalence of undernourishment in Asia increased from 7.9% to 9.0% between 2019 and 2020. In addition to increasing food prices and insufficient food consumption, data suggest that 42% of the population in the region cannot afford a healthy diet.
On the back of existing support policies, the pandemic highlighted the “triple challenge” faced by food systems in terms of providing sufficient and nutritious food to a growing global population, ensuring livelihoods for those engaged in the food chain, and reducing the environmental footprint and GHG emissions of food systems. In Asia-Pacific, these translate into public health concerns, high environmental pressures and GHG emissions, persistent malnutrition, and growing inequality of access to food. For example, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in both adults and school-age children is rising more rapidly in Asia and the Pacific than in any other region. There is a clear need across the region to shift from a focus mainly on food production and intensification to one that integrates additional aspects of sustainable natural resource management, nutritious and healthy diets, and public health, and enhances resilience and mitigates climate change.
ADB will soon release a special report on Financing Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems in Asia and the Pacific to lay out the agenda to scale up financing for a sustainable and resilient transformation of food systems in the region. ADB is also preparing a policy brief assessing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food systems and summarizing the lessons learned for food systems in the region. In June 2021, the OECD published its global report on Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation 2021: Addressing the Challenges Facing Food Systems, which identified nearly 800 policy responses introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 54 developed countries and emerging economies, and assessed whether agricultural policies are serving the wider needs of food systems.
This webinar, which is part of the #ADBSustainableFood Webinar Series, will discuss the challenges and desirable policy responses to ensure food security in Asia and the Pacific through food systems transformation. It aims to support knowledge exchange between the two organizations, policymakers, key experts, and wider stakeholders across the region. The discussion is expected to clarify the major regional policy agenda to be discussed in two major international events in this area: the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit and the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit 2021.