Six years ago, Asia experienced a severe food crisis that saw the prices of staples like rice skyrocket and came close to sparking uprisings in several countries.
The situation is now relatively back to normal, but the region still faces the threats of food prices that are expected to continue to rise until 2050, inefficient supply chains, changing food consumption patterns as more economies reach middle-income status, growing urban populations and scarce land and human resources available for farming.
In this video interview, we asked Michiko Katagami, a senior natural resources and agricultural specialist with the Asian Development Bank and co-author of a 2012 book on lessons learned from the 2008 Asian food crisis, how the international development community can help improve or modernize regional supply chains to guarantee food security.
“It’s sort of like a mission impossible,” the Japanese expert said as she discussed ways to pursue a complete structural transformation of regional supply chains, which in her opinion should focus on empowering smallholder farmers to create resilience against future shocks.
Katagami explained how ADB is implementing a “strategic switch” from its traditional strategy of only investing in agricultural production to encompass the whole food distribution system, from infrastructure to trade agreements.
Asked about case studies which show how improving supply chains have provided food security solutions, the co-author of “The Quiet Revolution in Staple Food Value Chains” gave the examples of non-electrical storage facilities to extend the shelf life of perishable products like potatoes in rural Afghanistan, and regional trade agreements among Central Asian countries that have lessened their dependence on wheat imported by road from Kazakhstan.
Katagami also analyzed potential business opportunities for the private sector in ADB programs to modernize supply chains in Asia, where she encouraged firms to help create long-term solutions for smallholder farmers that allow both sides to make a profit apart from meeting the shared goal of regional food security.
“It’s very exciting [because] we never thought that could make commercial sense, but now it does,” noted the expert, who stressed the need to make a business case out of any development program and pointed out that at ADB “we’re learning by doing” in this aspect.
Feeding Development is an online conversation hosted by Devex in partnership with ACDI/VOCA, Chemonics, Fintrac, GAIN, Nestlé and Tetra Tech to reimagine solutions for a food-secure future from seed and soil to a healthy meal.