Publication: Trusting Trade and the Private Sector for Food Security in Southeast Asia

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Alavi, Hamid R.
Htenas, Aira
Kopicki, Ron
Shepherd, Andrew W.
Clarete, Ramon
This book challenges policy makers who oversee the rice sector in Southeast Asia to reexamine deep-rooted precepts about their responsibilities. As an essential first step, it calls on them to redefine food security. Fixating on national self-sufficiency has been costly and counterproductive. In its stead, coordination and cooperation can both improve rice production at home and structure expanding regional trade. To enhance regional food security through quantitative and qualitative gains in rice production, policy makers cannot solely rely on government programs. They need to also enlist private investors both as entrepreneurs and as partners who can bring capital, energy, modern technology, and experienced management into sustained efforts to reduce losses and heighten efficiency in supply chains. For such investors and participants to enter vigorously into the rice sector from which they have long held back, they will need a number of incentives, among them a confidence that the regional market for rice will evolve toward a structured, liberalized market shielded from the unilateral government interventions that have distorted it in the past and continue to do so in the present. The study's findings make it clear that current rice sector policies are not achieving their desired goals. Its examination of the 2007-08 food crises found, in fact, that government policies and panicky responses were the primary factors behind soaring (and later diminishing) rice prices. Those policies vary, but they share a common premise: food security depends, first of all, on self-sufficiency in rice. That premise has driven government intervention for decades, and unpredictable government intervention, in turn, has been a significant factor in making the rice sector too risky to attract significant private investment. The transition that this study urges will be difficult and, of necessity, slow to gain momentum. Nevertheless, it is already beginning. The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are working to liberalize trade in the region. The study is, in fact, intended to assist in implementing policy objectives outlined in the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) framework and in the strategic plan of action on food security in the ASEAN Region 2009-2013, in which the heads of member states pledged to embrace food security as a matter of permanent and high priority.
Alavi, Hamid R.; Htenas, Aira; Kopicki, Ron; Shepherd, Andrew W.; Clarete, Ramon. 2012. Trusting Trade and the Private Sector for Food Security in Southeast Asia. Direction in Development ; trade. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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