Experts see challenges to global food system

An international refereed journal published by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), the Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development (AJAD), published the latest papers that paints a grim reality of a possible global food crisis.

SEARCA Director Glenn Gregorio said the latest papers delved into food crisis threats that may be brought about by the Ukraine war, climate shocks experienced by major food granaries, the Covid-19 pandemic and a variety of country-specific hurdles in agriculture and development in Asia.

However, Gregorio noted that "equally important with these debacles are tested responses offered by the authors, which could hopefully replicate positive outcomes."

One of these papers authored by C. Peter Timmer discussed the potential world food crisis that may be "worse than any since World War 2." In his article "How to Manage a World Food Crisis," Timmer, a leading authority on agriculture and rural development and Harvard University emeritus, recognized that "food security equals national security."

To respond to the potential crisis, Timmer proposes to pay far more attention to the true value of grain reserves per country to prevent price panics in world grain markets; and to understand the role that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has played since 2008 in stabilizing the world rice market.

Substituting rice and maize for wheat; reducing the use of grain and vegetable oils to make biofuels; and avoiding "food protectionism" by limiting trade barriers, if unavoidable, were Timmer's recommended responses to global food disruptions.

Aziz Rahman Arya, also cited in his article "Agricultural Transformation in Asia: Experiences and Emerging Challenges," earlier studies that claim "neglecting agriculture, especially at the early stages of industrialization, can disrupt the process of economic transformation."

A Food and Agriculture Organization advocacy specialist, Arya reviews agricultural transformation based on Timmer's 1988 framework that agricultural transformation in Asia has followed a uniform pattern but with unique characteristics in each stage.

He noted that the next phase of agricultural transformation, pioneered in Japan, South Korea and China, seems relevant to most countries in Asia and elsewhere and in facilitating the "next phase."

Other major issues

Another article, "Perceptions on the Challenges of Banana Cultivation and Biobased Technology Use Among Malaysian Smallholder Farmers," is all about the local smallholder banana industry, the challenges in commercial cultivation and the use of bio-based technologies.

The paper revealed that correct information and access to technology are rare privileges for small-holder farmers in Malaysia. It proposes that coordinated efforts to substantially increase support for them are deemed of "paramount concern."

An inquiry on the outscaling of the microtiller was the subject of a study "What Happened to PhilRice's Microtiller? A Scaling Study." To address the tedious rice land cultivation in the Cordillera highlands of the Philippines, the microtiller machine was developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PHilRice) in the 1990s.

The study showed that its successful scaling was hampered and there was 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.

Analyzing India's trade in the world market and its exports to 10 major destinations in 2000-2021 was the subject of a study "Fish and Fishery Products Trade by India: Trends, Competitiveness and Comparative Advantage."

To quantify India's comparative advantage in exporting, the study used the revealed symmetric comparative advantage (RSCA) index and to measure the revealed competitiveness of the country's trade, it used the Vollrath index. As a result, India has a revealed comparative advantage or 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" analyzed the effect of a husband and wife's socioeconomic characteristics, relative differences in age and education, and household characteristics on M-bank use.

Exploring the presence and possible effect of the gender gap between husband and wife, there was a substantial gender gap in M-bank use favoring husbands in most couples where the husband has more schooling than the wife and vice versa.

Lastly, a book review of "Agri-Based Bioeconomy: Reintegrating Trans-Disciplinary Research and Sustainable Development Goals" recommends the book as a useful reference in understanding the role of new technologies and practices in the emerging agricultural bioeconomy.

The book's main contribution is highlighting how researchers and producers alike are applying biological solutions to achieve sustainability goals. It covers many facets of the bioeconomy.

Gregorio said 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.

Headed by Dr. Cielito Habito, AJAD's editorial board welcomes submissions all year-round on digital agriculture, food security amid global shocks, water resources management, international trade/globalization such as the ASEAN Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and agricultural policies and/or governance through, powered by Clarivate ScholarOne Manuscripts.

A former Cabinet member of the Philippine government, Habito is a professor of economics at the Ateneo de Manila University and director of the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development.

All the new and past papers published in AJAD are available online for free via while print copies are available through subscription.