Food Security - Global Trends and Region Perspective with Reference to East Asia

The sharp increase in global food prices during 2007‐2008 has triggered the awareness of food insecurity problems and their impacts on the low income, food‐deficit countries many of which are located in the East Asian countries. The food‐security situation was good in relative terms given that the percentage of carbohydrates consumed is slightly lower than the world average while proteins and fats consumption are higher than that of other regions. The food security in East Asia is largely driven by domestic production performance, and despite the doubling of import volume during the last decade, Asia remains the least dependent of all regions on food imports. Nevertheless, the rising energy costs and grain prices induced by the increasing demand of grains for bio‐fuel exacerbate the undernourishment of the poor households in the region. While most of the government interventions focus on short‐term measures such as reducing domestic food prices through trade or price control, the risk of facing a long‐term food insecurity still exists which may render national action inadequate and require multilateral cooperation. Evidence has shown that agricultural production is rather vulnerable to climate change, in particular, temperature and precipitation changes. As Matthews et al. (1995) indicates, the impact of climate change on rice production in Asia is of particular policy interest considering that rice is the most important component in millions of Asians’ diet. Seventeen south, south‐east, and east Asian countries produce 92% of the world total rice supply, among which 90% is consumed in these regions as well (Matthews et al., 1995). Rice‐growing countries in Asia locate in different latitudes and the terrain conditions of the rice‐growing areas vary as well. As such, climate‐change impact on rice production of the Asian countries is quite diversified and warrants a detailed assessment at regional level. Here, we present a summary report from a recent study by Lee and Chang (2010) regarding the impact of climate change on Asia’s rice sector. Our study employs a multi‐region, multi‐sector computable general equilibrium (CGE) model—which also considers crop suitability and agro‐ecological characteristics—to analyze the climate‐change impact on global rice market (supply‐side shock through crop yield change), with the consideration of changes in food demand due to population and 3 economic growth. In contrast to Mathews et al. (1995), our study places more emphasis on the economic side of food security issue regarding rice such as the effect on prices of rice and other competing food crops that is brought about by varied changes in rice yield across countries. We take into account changes in both the supply and demand sides to examine the impact of climate change by 2020 on the global rice market and food security for Asian countries should the world is developing as plotted in the IPCC SRES scenario A2. Among all these concerns, food price is the key. Thus, in addition to the physical impact of climate change, price‐induced adjustments in food production, which would affect significantly the reallocation of agricultural land among uses, are also taken into account. By identifying crop suitability and agro‐ecological features of land, the economic model we used here can model more realistically the production responses of rice‐growing countries to climate change, especially when diversity are found for the rice‐growing countries in their vulnerability to climate change. Food security of countries located in tropical and sub‐tropical zones may be adversely affected by climate change and the fluctuations in global food prices thus induced. The results suggest that among Asian countries, India gets the hardest hit of climate change in its rice production, and a huge increase in the unit cost of rice production. Thus India has to rely heavily on imports from the world market to meet its domestic rice demand. To fill the gap being caused by climate change, China also has to increase rice imports, with a relatively bigger magnitude than the other Asian countries. India and China have been the world’s top rice‐growing countries, and most of their rice production is consumed domestically. Should negative effects of rice yield occur in these two major rice‐consuming countries, their raised demand for rice imports may push up global price of rice, and in turn affect regions that are very much reliant on foreign supply. Our major finding is that as agricultural trade intensifies, impact of climate change, be it positive or negative, occurring in one region will spill over into other regions, through the channels of trade. As such, policy measures aimed to effectively alleviate food security problem should also take into account the geographically diverse impact of climate change on crop yield along with the agricultural trade development related policies.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-26

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