At the start of the first senior officials’ meeting of 2013 on Friday, Indonesia called on fellow members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to involve farmers in ensuring food security in the region.
Acknowledging the important role of farmers, particularly in emerging Asian economies, Agriculture Minister Suswono said smallholder farmers should be more engaged in the regional food supply chain to allow them to reap financial benefits from ongoing development and the process of achieving food security.
“Only by working with farmers can we revive and sustain the spirit of growth with equity,” he said in his opening speech at the meeting of APEC’s Policy Partnership on Food Security (PPFS) in Jakarta on Friday.
Suswono also highlighted the importance of food self-sufficiency for the nation, as the international market was often untrustworthy, worsening the challenges to food security such as global warming, extreme weather and natural disasters.
The PPFS is a high-level consultative forum established in 2011 to help facilitate investment, liberalize trade and support sustainable development in the agriculture sector. It aims to create a food system by 2020 to guarantee food security across the Asia-Pacific region.
Achmad Suryana, the chair of the PPFS, said that involving smallholder farmers in measures to generate food security would help them boost their income significantly.
“By entering an integrated supply chain, the farmers can generate higher income and this will contribute to their welfare,” he said.
APEC economies are currently among the world’s biggest food exporters and importers. They accounted for 34 percent of global agricultural exports and 36 percent of agricultural imports in 2009.
On the supply side, the agricultural sector in an emerging Asia still mostly depends on smallholders, who manage small cultivation areas, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).
Ahmad Yakub, who represents the Indonesian Farmers’ Alliance, said that APEC should formulate policy partnerships that strengthen and facilitate smallholders in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of food sovereignty, access to land, adoption of local agricultural technology and local seeding, instead of endorsing agricultural liberalization and investment as well as underlining the key roles of big corporations.
“APEC and the world are facing climate change, natural resource constraints and rising production costs caused by food industrialization. We should protect and embrace smallholder farmers because they are the biggest investors in agriculture and food production,” he said.
The two-day meeting on food security is expected to formulate specific policies to reach food security along with concrete action plans to be implemented this year and — gradually — until 2020.
The meeting will be accompanied by a series of related APEC meetings that will run until Feb. 2, covering a wide array of events such as a public private dialogue by an investment expert group, a meeting of an electronic commerce steering group, and a workshop on green procurement by a committee on trade and investment.