||Asean Affairs 13 June 2013
ASEAN Rice Trade Forum to Promote Regional Cooperation on Rice Trade and Self-sufficiency
ASEAN Secretariat News
Indonesia brought together member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), agribusiness groups, NGOs, and international development agencies in a major forum on 4-5 June 2013 in Yogyakarta to harness regional cooperation on ensuring the active trading and easy accessibility of Asia’s main staple—rice.
The 2nd ASEAN Rice Trade Forum is convened by the ASEAN Food Security Reserve Board (AFSRB) in coordination with the ASEAN Secretariat and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Financial support is provided by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction through ADB.
“The Forum seeks to serve as a platform to promote coherent and coordinated policies and investments affecting the regional rice market to advance food security in Southeast Asia,” said Ngin Chhay, current chair of the AFSRB and director of the Department of Rice Crops of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Cambodia.
The 2nd ASEAN Rice Trade Forum takes off from the first forum held in Cambodia in June 2012 to highlight the importance of expanding rice trade in the region alongside self-sufficiency programs of ASEAN member countries.
The 2-day forum was held back-to-back with the 33rd Annual Meeting of the AFSRB, which will evaluate the outcome of the forum as the basis for its recommendations to the Senior Officials Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Fisheries in July 2013.
At present, rice trade is low within the ASEAN region although it hosts some of the world's biggest rice exporters and importers.
“Such thin trading makes the rice market susceptible to extreme price fluctuations, which was experienced during spiraling rice prices in 2007–2008,” noted Lourdes Adriano, ADB lead agriculture specialist. “Rice trade has the potential to keep rice price movements within the reach of the region’s population, especially the teeming poor.”
She thus stressed that a key objective of the forum is to identify policy options to strengthen regional cooperation and supply chain investments for the sustained development of rice trade and food security. Another is to ensure better coordination of food policies by all ASEAN Member States through the timely exchange of accurate information and analysis of the rice market.
Takako Ito, Minister-Counsellor of the Mission of Japan to ASEAN, reiterated the same point in her opening remarks. “Given the still predominant role of rice as a main staple in Asia, fostering regional cooperation on rice trade is certainly an imperative, especially in addressing widespread poverty across the region,” she said.
Tahlim Sudaryanto, Assistant Minister for International Cooperation of Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture, also shared recent developments in Indonesia’s program to attain self-sufficiency in rice production within the next years.
The forum’s main convenor, the AFSRB, was created in 1979 to coordinate the ASEAN Food Security Reserve which stockpiles rice to secure the food needs of member states. While the task of administering the emergency rice reserve was transferred in 2011 to the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve Council, the AFSRB has continued to coordinate the exchange of information on food and evaluate the food situation in ASEAN.
The AFSRB is composed of a representative from the agriculture, commerce or trade agency of each of the 10 ASEAN Member States—Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam.