High-level forum takes stock of food systems transformation in ASEAN post-pandemic

Analysts, policymakers, researchers, international donors, and public-private entities convened in a high-level policy forum today in Hanoi, Vietnam to deliberate on five years of rigorous research in “Agricultural Transformation and Market Integration in the ASEAN Region: Responding to Food Security and Inclusiveness Concerns (ATMI-ASEAN).

ATMI-ASEAN is a program covering the Philippines, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam that is jointly implemented by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Los Baños-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). It is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

More than 100 stakeholders participated in the forum co-organized by IFPRI, SEARCA, and Vietnam’s Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD). They included representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Government of Vietnam; Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF), Cambodia; Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation (MoALI) Myanmar; Asian farmer organizations, research institutions, donors, civil society, NGOs, and academics.

Themed “Transforming Food Systems in the ASEAN Region Post COVID-19,” the forum took stock of the progress surrounding food security and inclusivity in the ASEAN region. The participants deliberated on ways forward for a resilient recovery of agri-food value chains that will ensure the inclusiveness of smallholders in the regional and global value chains and make them resilient to shocks.

Unless food security and smallholder inclusiveness are credibly harmonized with ASEAN’s competitiveness agenda, improvements in regional agricultural and food markets will be inadequate, leaving them vulnerable to sudden disruptions, the forum organizers stressed.

The forum also showcased ATMI-ASEAN program outputs, among which are SEARCA-led components, namely, the regional value chain assessment conducted in coordination with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat, as well as the national-level agricultural value chain studies, policy strategies, and national roadmaps for value chains within the five target ASEAN member states (AMS).

“The roadmaps will further help to strengthen the capacity of the targeted AMS in developing policies and programs to support the adjustment of the smallholder farm sector to changes in sub-regional and supra-regional agricultural and food markets,” said SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio.

The participants also discussed possible ways to sustaining the use of the program’s work beyond its lifecycle through an extended network of policy actors and analysts. ATMI-ASEAN internalizes the reshaping of the food system with the public health concerns and the geopolitical complex.

We are proud that our support has contributed to better coordination of food security policies and the development of regional and sub-regional roadmaps for investments in food and agri-based value chains for the ASEAN region,” said Mr. Abdelkarim Sma, IFAD Lead Regional Economist.

“I am particularly happy that the capacity-building efforts of the programme have helped strengthen national government agencies and ASEAN in their respective planning and programming capacities,” Sma said.