The Challenges to Food Security in Asia: Solutions for the Future? by Asiful Basar

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Introduction

In this globalized era of twenty first century, free trade, expanding private ownership and squeezing government control from the ownership of business, bring a significant economic prosperity in the developed world. On the other hand, widespread poverty, war and conflicts, food insecurity and environmental degradation cause severe human suffering all over the developing world and these destabilize the world’s economy and ecosystems. In present world, where we have more than 6 billion of population, out of them 2.5 billion live on less than 2 dollar in a day, where 30 percent of total world population lives in absolute poverty (Andersen and Lorch, 1998); food security issue naturally becomes as a hot topic. Present increase of global food price and rising consumption of biofuels which is also squeezing food production, somehow, bring this issue in lime light. Besides, raising demand of food and the decreasing productivity of land; because of environmental degradation have also created a big challenge for global food security. More than 800 million people in the world are food insecure (Pinstrup P. et al., 1998:1).In Asia, the situation is more serious than other part of the world; because Asia share the largest proportion of world population (60% of World population) and the largest portion of world’s poor (1.9 Billion people live under 2USD income per day). This stern situation of Asia on food insecurity inspired me to investigate the challenges and solutions for future food security of this region. Besides, this paper also especially discus the impact of biofuels on food production and poverty reduction.   

 

What is food security?

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines food security as a ‘‘situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’’(FAO 1996
). According to
Schmidhuber and Tubiello, This definition comprises four key dimensions of food supplies: availability, stability, access, and utilization (Schmidhuber, J and Tubiello, F., 2007). They argue that ´´agriculture is not only a source of the commodity food but, equally importantly, also a source of income. In a world where trade is possible at reasonably low cost, the crucial issue for food security is not whether food is ‘‘available,’’ but whether the monetary and nonmonetary resources at the disposal of the population are sufficient to allow everyone access to adequate quantities of food´´ (Schmidhuber, J and Tubiello, F., 2007). So, they stress mostly on the monetary and nonmonetary resources, which determine the purchasing capacity of consumers. According to FAO, food security must be measured in two dimensions, (1) availability and (2) access (Schmidhuber, J and Tubiello, F., 2007).

 

Why food security?

Fast growing population and climate change, both have influential role on food security. It is estimated that next twenty-five years, 70-80 million people will be added annually to the worlds population, 98 percent of them will live in developing world. These countries are projected to increase their demand for cereals grains by 80 percent between 1990 and 2020, and for livestock products by 160 percent (Andersen and Lorch, 1998). At the same time, we are seeing climatic and environmental degradation, which is threatening the prospect of food production in future. Therefore, these two opposite impacts have raised the demand of food security in our present time.

 

State of Food Production and Consumption in Asia

Asia is World leading food producer and consumer. Food trade in Asia is also world largest. Asia mostly produces rice, wheat, maize, and pulses as main grains. The main cereal grain in Asia is rice. Present data shows that Asia’s overall rice production increased slightly; though in terms of consumption, Asia’s rice production is still secure (see table A1 and A2). In the case of wheat, we can see a marginal production rate against its consumption. Wheat market in Asia depends on foreign market. Only in sugarcane production, we will see a healthy amount of production against consumption level. In most of the recent times, the production level of sugarcane contained 50% over production against its consumption level (see table A1 and A2). This surplus amount of sugarcane production indicates the chance for mass use of sugarcane in Ethanol production.

 

Drivers of Food Insecurity

Six major drivers play an influential role in global food insecurity. In the case of Asia, all those major drivers have influenced on Asia’s food security more intensely. The following sections will discus these major drivers role on Asia’s food security with special focus on– Population, increased individual income and change of dietary, Environment and natural hazards and Biofuels.

 

Population Growth

 

Rapid growing population and increasing purchase capacity, both have influential role on food security. It is estimated that next twenty-five years, 70-80 million people will be added annually to the worlds population, 98 percent of them will live in developing world. These countries are projected to increase their demand for cereals by 80 percent between 1990 and 2020, and for livestock products by 160 percent (Andersen and Lorch, 1998). 

Population growth is the number one driver of food insecurity in Asia. In 1999, world population was about 6 billion of which 56%, or 3.4 billion, live in the Asia-Pacific region. It is estimated, that Asian population will reach 4.3 billion by 2025. At present, 81 million people are added to the world population annually, of which the Asia-Pacific region contributes 63%, or 51 million individuals per year. Of this, China contributes 13 Million and India 16 Million people per year. According to World Bank estimation, the major countries in terms of Population in Asia are: China (1.3 B), India (1.1 B), Indonesia (220 M), Pakistan (162 M), Bangladesh (158 M), and Japan (127 M). The children per woman ratio are also very important. In the developing part of Asia, this ratio is still alarming. At present children per woman ratio is Japan (1.48), China (1.80), Indonesia (2.57), Bangladesh (2.86), India (3.18), Philippines (3.46), Laos (5.55) and Cambodia (5.81).

China and India
’s future food consumption will become an influential factor for Asia’s food security. Asia’s growing population requires an increase in cereal grain production of 344 million metric tons (MMTs) from 1997 to 2020. Of the 557 MMT global increases, China comprises 26% and India 12%. Worldwatch Institute estimated that China alone would import up to 216 MMT of grain by 2030.

 

Rising Individual Incomes and Change in Dietary Patterns

 

Rising middle class in developed and some developing countries in Asia also created a pressure on food security. The astonishing improvement of Chinese living standard in recent times and the emerging middle class in India, broaden the consumption capacity of these two countries. China has successfully met the Millennium Development Growth(MDG) by reducing the number of food insecure people from 387 million in 1970 to about 150 million in 2002–2004 and the prevalence from 46 percent to 12 percent (Pinstrup-Andersen, P. and Herforth A, 2008:50).Other developing countries in Asia, excluding China, have experienced a significant increase in the number of food insecure people since 1970, a trend that is expected will continue to 2015(Pinstrup-Andersen, P. and Herforth A, 2008:50).Furthermore, the number of food insecure people in South Asia has also increased in recent time, which surpassed 300 million in 2002-2004 time frame. Most of the food insecure people in South Asia live in India, though at the same time India saw a significant economic growth in its economic history. Green revolution brought a boom in agriculture production in India in early 80s. India jumped from 5 % of growth in 1970 to 8 % growth in 2004; GDP per capita income (constant 2000 US$) also doubled in this period, from 214 in 1970 to 546 in 2004.Household final consumption expenditure (annual % growth) also doubled, from 3 to 6 between that time (World Development Indicators). It is assumed that most of the benefit of this economic growth goes to the favor of the urban middle class; the poorest of the poor have not got that much economic benefit.

On the other hand, China has seen a superb economic miracle in that period. Its annual GDP growth has surpassed all the world previous records; from 6 % in 1970 to 10 % in 2004. At the same time, GDP per capita income (constant 2000 US$) increased 10 times, from 122 in 1970 to 1323 in 2004. This huge economic growth increases the overall food consumption level in China. The so called ‘meat miracle’ brings a rapid shift of food habit in China. Chinese eat more meat now than they ate in 1970s.It is assumed that in near future, because of upgrading living standard, Chinese will have more pork, poultry, eggs, and beef to eat and more beer to drink—all of which will require grains. China alone will account for 43% of additional meat demand worldwide between 1997 and 2020. So, the increasing individual income and change of dietary patterns will affect badly on overall Asian food security in future.

  

Environmental Degradation and Natural Disasters

 

We all know that agricultural production depends on climate and environment. Degradation of natural resources such as soils, forests, fisheries, and water systems undermines food production capacity. It has estimated that since 1945, approximately 2 billion of the 8.7 billion acres of agricultural land, permanent pastures, and forest and woodlands have been degraded by overgrazing, deforestation, and poor agricultural practices (Andersen and Lorch, 1998). There is also concern that ‘‘meeting the global demand for food resulting from higher population and changing dietary preferences will further degrade the environment both through additional destruction of native vegetation and increased intensification of cropped areas’’ (Tilman et al. 2001).

 

Climate change will affect all four dimensions of food security, namely food availability (i.e., production and trade), access to food, stability of food supplies, and food utilization (Schmidhuber et al., 2007). Climate change also impact badly on agriculture and food production. According to Schmidhuber and Tubiello (2007), ´´it affects food production directly through changes in agro-ecological conditions and indirectly by affecting growth and distribution of incomes and thus, demand for agricultural produce´´.

Climate change may affect food systems in some other way also,´´ ranging from direct effects on crop production (e.g. changes in rainfall leading to drought or flooding, salinization in the coastal areas, or warmer or cooler temperatures leading to changes in the length of growi
ng season), to changes in markets, food prices and supply chain infrastructure´´(
Gregory J P, et al 2005). Natural disasters, such as drought, flood, cyclone, tsunami, earthquake all can damage crops fields and land productivity significantly. According to Schmidhuber and Tubiello, ´´climate fluctuations will become more pronounced and more widespread, droughts and floods, the dominant causes of short-term fluctuations in food production in semiarid and sub humid areas, will become more severe and more frequent´´. It is said that if the situation become worsen in future, in semiarid areas, droughts will dramatically reduce the productivity of the land. So, it can be guessed that the poorest regions with the highest level of chronic undernourishment will also be exposed to the highest degree of instability in food production (Bruinsma, 2003)

 

Increased Use of Biofuels

 

Another growing concern for food security is the use of food grains in bio-fuels production. The scarcity of fossil fuels and the urge for reducing CO2 gas from the atmosphere inspired the use of bio-fuels in recent years. Maize, oils seeds and sugarcane are the mostly use food product in this case, but other food grains are also using in a limited scale. The two most popular forms of bio-energy are Ethanol and Biodiesel. Although bioethanol and biodiesel still account for a very small share of global energy consumption the equivalent of 1% of total consumption of fuel for road transport but that share is growing fast (IEA, 2006). The present proportion of bio-fuels use is very minimum, but in terms of land usages, it becomes a growing concern. A number of analysts have since come forward with projections of future land needs for biofuel production. One recent study estimates that ´´demand for maize-based ethanol from the US alone will put 12.8 million hectors under maize in the US by 2016; hereby bringing 10.8million hectors new agricultural land into production, mainly in Brazil, China, India and the US´´ (Searchinger et al., 2008). According to IEAs World Outlook 2006, projected growth of biofuel production to 2030 will require 35 million hectors of land (2.5% of available arable land, approximately equal to the combined area of France and Spain), and 53 million hectors of land (3.8% of available arable land) according Alternative Policy Scenario (IEA, 2006:416). However, other studies show that modest greenhouse regulation can bring second generation of biofuel, could lead to 1,500 million hectors, equivalent to the current total global farmland, under biofuel crops by 2050 (Field et al., 2007). This study shows that for producing biofuel, in future we must have to use great proportion of arable land. According to The Global Agro-ecological Assessment, at the global level, ´´2,541 million hectors of land have potential for cultivation: 2,541 million hectors in the very suitable and suitable categories and a further 784 million hectors in the moderately suitable category. A large proportion of the worlds land surface is not cultivable due to being too dry, too cold, too steep, and too nutrient-poor or a combination of these factors´´ (Cotula et al., 2008). Therefore, it shows that in near future, half of the world most cultivatable land will be used in biofuel plantation, which will squeeze the productivity of grains corps and lead a potential food crisis. The rapid expansion of ethanol and Biodiesel has increased dependency on natural vegetation and crops grown specifically for energy, which leads so far a rising of food prices all over the world, and poor countries suffering mostly (Braun, 2008). Besides these, the upcoming environmental hazards and climatic impact can create a huge pressure on agricultural productivity.

It is also arguable that, can biofuels usage decrease the amount of CO2 gas from atmosphere or not? According to analysis and recommendation for US Biofuel Policy by two US based research groups –Food and Water Watch and Network for New Energy Choices (2007) have shown ethanol can reduce some greenhouse gases, but can also increase emission of others. It says, ‘‘when fossil fuels are used to power ethanol refineries, the end result will more global warming pollution than is generated by the dirty fuels ethanol is replacing (see the weblink).

However, it is also true that biofuels production can bring economic opportunity to the life of poorest rural farmers in developing world. Non-food plants cultivation in wasteland areas can ensure the economic security of the poor and it can be use as a toll for poverty alleviation in future. In India and Ghana, Jatropha cultivation in wasteland, changed the income level of the rural poor people (Cotula et al., 2008).   

 

Solutions from the Sustainability Perspective

Food insecurity cannot be mitigated by one way; several efforts ne
ed to imply collectively. My argument suggests, sustainable strategies against food insecurity only can minimize the severity of food insecurity from the world. International and regional cooperation is very important in this case. The six most urgent solutions that I found for Asian food security are:

– Efforts to reduce population growth.

– Increased investment for agricultural production.

– Regulate biofuels production and curtail subsidization from biofuel sector.

– Controlling dietary patterns by imposing strict law against meat selling in a weekday.

– Government support to the vulnerable farming groups for production of main food crops, and

  Reforming international trade and creating regional food bank.

 

Conclusion

It is said that developing countries are the most food insecure in the world. Among these countries, the countries those have larger population and comparatively small cultivatable land, will be suffered most. In this case as a Continent, Asia is more vulnerable than any other continent. Furthermore, environmental degradation and the impact of climate change also made some Asian countries most vulnerable. So, in conclusion, it can be said that the future of world food security is very obscure. Food is still insecure to the poor. The three dimensional impacts on food productivity (Environmental degradation, Climate change and use of biofuels) have already created a growing food scarcity all over the world, and in future developing world, especially Asia will be suffered more. So, it can be said, only regional and international cooperation from the sustainability perspective can strengthen the food security in the world.     

 

 

References

 

Braun von J, (2008) Biofuels, International Food Prices, and the Poor, Testimony to the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Washington DC

 

Bruinsma J, ed (2003) World Agriculture: Toward 2015/2030, A Food and Agriculture Organization Perspective (Earthscan, London).

 

Cassman, G. Kenneth, (2007) Perspective Climate change, biofuels, and global food security Environmental Research Letters Year: 2007 Volume: 2 Issue: 1

 

Cotula, L., Dyer, N., and Vermeulen, S., (2008) Fuelling Exclusion? The Biofuels Boom and Poor Peoples Access to Land, IIED, London.

 

Field, C.B., Campbell, J.E., and Lobell, D.B., (2007) Biomass energy: the scale of the potential resource, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 23, pp. 65-72.

 

Food and Agriculture Organization (1996) Rome Declaration on World Food Security, Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome.

 

Gregory, J P, Ingram, J and Brklacich M (2005) Climate Change and Food Security, Philosophical Transitions of the Royal society, UK, B 360, 2139–2148

 

Pinstrup-Andersen, Per and Pandya-Lorch, R (1998), Food Security and The Sustainable Use of Natural Resources: A 2020 Vission. In A Survey of Sustainable Development, (Eds) Harris M. J, Wise A.T, Gallagher P.K and Goodwin R. N, (2001), Island Press, Washington DC.

 

Pinstrup-Andersen, P. and Herforth A (2008), Food Security Achieving the Potential, In Environment, VOL 50, No 5, see www.environmentmagazine.org

 

IEA, 2006, World Energy Outlook 2006, International Energy Agency, Paris.

 

Searchinger, T., Heimlich,
R., Houghton, R. A., Fengxia Dong, Elobeid, A., Fabiosa, J., Tokgoz, S., Hayes, D., and Tun-Hsiang Yu, (2008) Use of U.S. croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land-use change,
Science, 319, pp. 1238-1240.

 

Schmidhuber J and Tubiello Francesco N.(2007), Global food security under climate change, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America ,Volume: 104 Issue: 50 Pages: 19703-19708

 

Tilman, D. et al. (2001) Forecasting agriculturally driven global environmental change, Science 292, 281284

 

Internet Resource

 

FAOSTAT, http://faostat.fao.org/site/291/default.aspx

 

MDG, UN, http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

 

World Bank, www.worldbank.org

 

World Development Indicators of World Bank, http://ddp-ext.worldbank.org.

 

Food & Water Watch and Network for New Energy Choices, www.newenergychoices.org/uploads/RushtoEthanol-bro.pdf

 

 

Appendix

.

Table: A1 Food Production in Asia (2000-2005), Million Metric Ton(MMT)

Items

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

 

Sources: FAOSTAT

Table: A2 Food Consumption in Asia (2002-2005), Million Metric Ton(MMT)

Items

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

 

Sorces: FAOSTAT

Table A3: 12 Most Food Insecure Country in Asia in July 2008

 

Nature of Food Insecurity

Countries

Main Reason

 

Source: FAO, Global Information and Early Warning System

Writer:

 

Asiful Basar

Master in Asian Studies, Lund University, Sweden.

E-mail: rony2002bd@yahoo.com


Worried Japanese Businesses Lash Out against Climate Deal

Alexandru Luta Research Assistant International Politics of Natural Resources and the Environment Research Programme Finnish Institute of International Affairs

On Tuesday, March 17, 2009, a full-page newspaper advertisement, run in reportedly all of Japan’s dailies, sent shockwaves through the country’s green community. The advertisement’s message, co-sponsored by the Nippon Keidanren (English: the Japan Business Association) and 27 other business and industry federations, asks of the newspapers’ readership if they will not think about “the costs we all have to bear”.

The size 120 bold font headline is accompanied by a brief motto-like text: “Japan is the world’s top low-carbon society. We intend to further raise the world’s highest energy efficiency levels and to proactively contribute to global emissions reductions. On the other hand, the question of costs to society as a whole is also important.”

The said reductions refer to Japan’s mid-term target for emissions cuts under a treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol after 2012, when the latter expires. Japan announced last month a bewildering array of potential commitments for the 2012-2020 period, ranging from a 6% increase of emissions to a 25% decrease relative to the 1990 base year. The Prime Minister’s office is to announce its final pick in June.

Even a modest -3% target would cost the equivalent of 1.05 million yen (approx EUR 8,000) per household, the group of 28 business associations informs the whole nation. The current Cabinet suffers already dismal approval ratings and 2009 is an election year. This stoking of negative public opinion clearly is meant to gnaw away at whatever shred of public support the government might have counted on to in order to impose an ambitious mid-term emissions reduction target. This cheap appeal to the public’s concern about its wallet is doubly potent today if one considers the unprecedented GDP contraction Japan is currently experiencing.

The document is thoroughly propagandist in nature. Leaving aside the matter of economic advantages likely to accrue to those who develop enhanced energy-saving and emission-reducing technologies first, global warming is mentioned throughout the page only in passing: once as the focus of the worrisome government policies and once more as being unavoidable if others shirk their obligations. The words “climate change” did not find its way into the advertisement at all.

The text brings no new ideas. It essentially merely reiterates the same hackneyed tropes of the Japanese discussion on the Kyoto Protocol: Graphs proving outstanding Japanese energy efficiency, the unfair base year ignoring Japan’s prior success in reducing its reliance on carbon, and the pointlessness of negotiating a new framework if countries such as the US, China and India do not participate – it is all there. However, the developments of the past year, such as Washington, Moscow and Beijing seemingly adopting a more constructive approach, are not mentioned at all.

What is new is the advertisement’s scale. It is clear that Japanese Big Business has seen the writing on the wall: a consensus is forming that global emission levels need to be reduced drastically. Japan has no wiggle room left and the government is likely going to throw its weight behind bringing emissions down – way down, given how far above its commitments Japan currently is. For decades businesses have kept meddlesome government supervision at arm’s length, but now it looks as if it may be just around the corner.

One is tempted to feel pity for Japan’s corporations. The fact is that they have indeed achieved unparalleled advances in energy efficiency and it looks like they might be asked to do even more. Meanwhile, the real cause for bloated Japanese emissions is likely to go unaddressed. Since 1990 the emissions of the housing and transportation sector have ballooned, with next to no concrete steps being taken to rein them in.

Unfortunately, after Junichiro Koizumi’s departure in 2006 the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has muddled rudderlessly from one ineffectual Prime Minister to another. The population is disenchanted with the LDP, which likely feels utterly unable to foist the policies and measures an effective climate change regime requires on a fickle electorate. A new reformist Prime Minister, with a powerful popular base, is needed today to make the Japanese understand that sometimes there are costs that simply need to be born.