Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

Food security in Asia and the Pacific: the rapidly changing role of rice

By Peter Timmer

Food security in Asia and the Pacific presents a frustrating paradox. At one level, huge progress has been made in the past half century in bringing most of the population out of poverty and hunger. Measured by the key determinants of food security—improved availability, access, utilisation and stability—food security has never been at higher levels. Large pockets of food-insecure populations remain in the region, especially in South Asia, and continued efforts to reach these households are necessary. At the same time, food security strategies in Asia are mostly in disarray. Most countries are protecting their rice farmers and providing high price supports, but high rice prices hurt the vast majority of the poor. Continued efforts to stabilise rice prices are understandable politically and desirable economically, but much more open trade regimes for rice will help food security throughout the region.

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