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NEWS UPDATES 6 July 2010

Food security in Asia

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The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) forum should create a policy framework with strong commitment from all members to ensure long-term food security, according to a government official, as reported by Viet Nam news

"There is an urgent need to develop a policy framework with strategies that need a strong commitment from all ASEM members to ensure long-term food security," Bui Ba Bong, deputy minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), said at the first Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) forum on "Sustainable Food Security" held in HCM City yesterday. Asian platform

"The forum aims at creating a platform for Asian and European countries to exchange ideas, learn from each other, and discuss how to solve existing problems," he said.

Head of Development Co-operation, Deputy Chief of the Belgian Embassy in Viet Nam Patrick de Bouck called for more support and investment for sustainable food production.

Bui Chi Buu, director general of the MARD's Institute of Agricultural Sciences for Southern Viet Nam, pointed out, "The recent sharp increase in international food prices is a concern because of its socio-economic impacts on many countries."

Buu said the increasing price of food was partly due to farming land being used to grow cassava, oilseed and sugar crops to make bio-energy. He warned that "the first priority for governments should be food security. Bio-fuel should be produced on marginal agricultural land that can't be economically farmed to produce food crops."

At the second session "Responses to food security", Suriyan Vichitiekarn, a senior officer of the ASEAN Secretariat, gave a progress report on ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS). "AIFS will try to attain its objectives of increasing food production, reducing post-harvest losses, promoting markets and trade for agricultural commodities and inputs, ensuring food stability, and operationalising regional food emergency relief arrangements," he said. Duncan Macintosh, International Rice Research Institute development director, outlined the challenges ahead.

"Food supply challenges are primarily driven by limited availability of land, energy and water while new technologies take time. Furthermore, far-sighted food policies must aim to stabilise production around long-run consumption trends and climate change will create additional pressure," he said.

New rice strains that can withstand extreme climates and new technologies to reduce greenhouse gases were priorities raised at the forum.

The forum was the initiative of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung at the last ASEM Senior Meeting in Beijing in October 2008.

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