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MANILA, Philippines - Food security is not going it alone, but ensuring a country has access to supply when it needs it most, experts said on the sidelines of the 45th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Board of Governors.
Xianbin Yao, director-general of the ADB Pacific Department, said the Philippines joins other countries that are pursuing food security amid the need to increase farm productivity worldwide.
Yao however said the Philippines can attain its goal by tapping the comparative advantage of other countries.
The Philippines aims to be come rice self-sufficient by next year.
"Indeed there is an important effort for increasing agricultural productivity, improving market connectivity. There is a lot of inefficiencies in the sectors which indeed requires investments, policies, at the same time we need to be mindful of the cost associated with the so-called self-sufficiency," Yao said.
"There are efforts that instead of a single focus on self-sufficiency to deal with food security, promoting regional cooperation, join other countries comparative advantages is first and foremost principle in our minds," he said.
Pierre Jacquet, chief economist of Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) or the French Development Agency, said international trade increasingly will be the "central aspect" of food security around the world.
Even if countries like the Philippines aim for rice self-sufficiency, it will have to tap other countries for things it has no comparative advantage in, he said, adding that international trade can play a big role in complementing a country's advantages.
"There is right now a drive in the whole world and people call that self-sufficiency but I think what matters is to increase production where it can be increased. This is really part of development. In the end, it won't be absolute self-sufficiency," Jacquet said.
"If you look at where people will need food and where food can be produced, overall, you don't have a mismatch but you have local mismatches that will have to be addressed by international trade. So international trade is bound to be a central aspect of food security in the future," he said.
According to an ADB report released Friday, food insecurity and inequality remain a reality for millions.
Had prices not increased during the early part of this decade, an additional 112 million people would have escaped poverty every year, the report said.
In the Philippines, food and non-food price increases caused 3.1 million Filipinos to join the ranks of the poor.
The ADB report said governments should establish hunger-alleviation funds, which should comprise one percent of a country's economic output.
"The funds could be jointly managed with the private sector, with companies encouraged to contribute using incentives such as tax breaks. Targeted subsidies would deliver help to those who need it most," the report said.
Besides targeted subsidies, the report recommended a second Green Revolution that taps biotechnology to raise food production. The report also pushed for weather-based crop insurance, as well as futures contracts that would give farmers a guaranteed minimum income for their crops.
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