Experts weigh in on food crisis threats and other agri hurdles, propose responses

  • By Monalinda B. Cadiz
  • 27 December 2022, Tuesday

Experts weigh in on food crisis threats and other agri hurdles, propose responses

The latest papers published in the Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development (AJAD) discuss grim possibilities of a world food crisis—brought about by the war in Ukraine, climate shocks experienced by major food granaries, and of course, COVID—and a variety of country-specific hurdles in agriculture and development in Asia. Equally important with these debacles are tested responses offered by the authors, which could hopefully replicate positive outcomes.

C. Peter Timmer, a leading authority on agriculture and rural development and Harvard University emeritus, provides his viewpoint on the potential world food crisis "worse than any since World War II." In his article "How to Manage a World Food Crisis," Timmer recognizes that "food security equals national security." He proposes: (1) paying far more attention to the true value of grain reserves per country to prevent price panics in world grain markets; and (2) understanding the role that ASEAN has played since 2008 in stabilizing the world rice market. He points out particular responses to the global food disruptions: substitute rice and maize for wheat; reduce the use of grain and vegetable oils to make biofuels; and avoid "food protectionism" by limiting trade barriers, if unavoidable.

In the article "Agricultural Transformation in Asia: Experiences and Emerging Challenges," FAO advocacy specialist Aziz Rahman Arya cites earlier studies that claim, "neglecting agriculture, especially at the early stages of industrialization, can disrupt the process of economic transformation." Arya reviews agricultural transformation through the lens of Professor Timmer's 1988 framework. It finds that agricultural transformation in Asia has followed a uniform pattern but with unique characteristics in each stage. "The next phase of agricultural transformation, pioneered in Japan, South Korea, and China, seems relevant to most countries in Asia and elsewhere," notes Arya. He emphasizes that the role of the state in facilitating the "next phase" is highly instrumental in terms of policy, strategy, incentives, and resources.

The article "Perceptions on the Challenges of Banana Cultivation and Biobased Technology Use Among Malaysian Smallholder Farmers" profiles the situation of the local smallholder banana industry, the challenges in commercial cultivation, and the use of bio-based technologies. Interviews with banana farmers showed that correct information and access to technology are a rare privilege for smallholders. Hence, coordinated efforts to substantially increase support for smallholder farmers in Malaysia is deemed of paramount concern.

The study "What Happened to PhilRice's Microtiller? A Scaling Study" inquired on the outscaling of the microtiller, a machine developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute in the 1990s to address the tedious rice land cultivation in the Cordillera highlands of the Philippines. While the machine offered a solution to the land preparation issue, its successful scaling was hampered. These include the absence of private sector engagement, lack of a business plan for scaling, lack of extension services, and the presence of a more versatile and cheaper competitor.

The study "Fish and Fishery Products Trade by India: Trends, Competitiveness, and Comparative Advantage" analyzed India's trade in the world market and its exports to 10 major destinations in 2000–2021. It used the revealed symmetric comparative advantage (RSCA) index to quantify India's comparative advantage in exporting and the Vollrath index to measure the revealed competitiveness of the country's trade. The analysis showed that India has a revealed comparative advantage (RCA) in exporting fish and fishery products to the world market.

The paper "Gender Gap in Mobile-Banking (M-bank) Use in Rural Northern Bangladesh" empirically estimates the effect of a husband's and wife's socioeconomic characteristics, relative differences in age and education, and household characteristics on M-bank use in northern Bangladesh. The study further explored the presence and possible effect of the gender gap between husband and wife. A substantial gender gap in M-bank use, favoring husbands, was observed in most couples where the husband has more schooling than the wife and vice versa.

A book review of Agri-Based Bioeconomy: Reintegrating Trans-Disciplinary Research and Sustainable Development Goals suggests it as a useful reference for those interested in understanding the role of new technologies and practices in the emerging agricultural bioeconomy. Although the book is wide ranging and covers many facets of the bioeconomy, its main contribution is in highlighting how researchers and producers alike are applying biological solutions to achieve sustainability goals.

AJAD is an international refereed journal published by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). AJAD publishes articles resulting from empirical, policy-oriented, or institutional development studies, as well as articles of perspectives on agriculture and development, political economy of rural development, and trade issues.

AJAD is particularly keen to publish these topics: digital agriculture; food security (amidst global shocks); water resources management; international trade/globalization (such as the ASEAN Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership); and agricultural policies and/or governance. Submissions are welcome all year-round through https://ajad.searca.org/submit, powered by Clarivate ScholarOne Manuscripts.

All the new and past papers published in AJAD are available online for free via https://ajad.searca.org while print copies are also available through subscription.

AJAD's editorial board is headed by Dr. Cielito F. Habito, professor of economics at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines and director of the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development. He is also a former cabinet member of the Philippine government, having served as Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Director General of the National Economic and Development Authority of the Philippines.