Ensuring Food Security – A Case for ASEAN Integration
The ASEAN member countries can be grouped into three sub-groups, each of which exhibits a distinct pattern with respect to food security issues. The first group is made up of the relatively food-secure countries of Singapore and Brunei. The second group consists of Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam. In these countries, except for Vietnam, agriculture has contributed a declining share in GDP, employment, and international trade. In addition, food habits in these countries have changed dramatically in recent decades. The third group is composed of Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar—economies in transition that require special attention.
A simple exercise shows that the area can collectively achieve food security via trade in rice and maize. Trade facilitation measures and the harmonization/equivalency of food regulation and control standards will reduce the cost of trade in food products. While specialization and revealed comparative and competitive indices point to complementarities between trade patterns among the ASEAN member countries, intra-ASEAN trade in agriculture is quite small. However, integration could address this problem. Further, if integration is to be used as a venue for ensuring food security, the member countries must agree on what food security collectively means to them, and what food items are important to each of them and the region, in general, so that regional integration and cooperation under the auspices of ASEAN can be promoted.