Group wants Asean rice reserve for food security

GMA News

May 13, 2008


MANILA, Philippines - A coalition of nongovernment organizations based in Manila called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to push for the Asean Emergency Rice Reserve scheme to secure the food needs of its member-states.
The East Asia Rice Working Group (EARWG), in a statement sent to media organizations Monday, said the proposal to form a rice price-fixing cartel in East Asia is opposed to the spirit of regional cooperation. The group said it the scheme will only benefit traders of rice exporting countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

"Instead of forming an oligopoly of rice exporting countries, the region should maintain and use the buffer stock of rice under the emergency rice reserve scheme," said David Ardhian, policy advocacy coordinator of Koalisi Rakyat Untuk Kedaulatan Pangan, a member of the EARWG.

KRKP, a farmers organization in Indonesia, said increasing rice prices spurred traders to promote rice export as opposed to securing local food consumption.

Ardhian said the export orientation has also led Indonesia's rice policy to engage in rice production in large estates and rice fields and has marginalized small-scale rice producers.

Thailand and Vietnam, two of the world's top rice exporting countries, are members of the Asean while the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are among the world's rice-importing countries.

"The original concept of the Asean Emergency Rice Reserve scheme should be updated to address increases in prices of rice that makes this staple food inaccessible to the poor," said Jessica Reyes-Cantos, lead convenor of Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) and a member of EARWG.

Cantos said the scheme should facilitate dialogue among major rice-producing and rice-consuming countries to discuss supply and demand situation and projections, "and possibly define the parameters for setting world rice prices,"

Japan proposed to expand the Asean Emergency Rice Reserve to facilitate trade among Asean member countries plus three of its trading partners - Japan, China and South Korea.

The EARWG statement said the food reserve scheme should uphold regional cooperation not only in rice trade but also in promoting collective self-sufficiency to ensure food security among Asean member countries.

"The rice price hike will not benefit majority of the farmers but only exporter-corporatio n and agro-industrial companies," Ardhian said.

He said governments should invest more in supporting rice farmers to achieve food security, livelihood security and rural development.

The Asean adopted the Food Security Reserve Agreement on October 4, 1979, to prevent the political and economic upheavals experienced by member-countries in the aftermath of the worldwide oil crisis in the early seventies, and to prevent food shortages resulting from emergency situations.

Japan initiated the review of the Asean Food Security Reserve and spearheaded the adoption of the East Asia Emergency Rice Reserve. It was included in the Strategic Plan of Action on Asean Cooperation in Food, Agriculture and Forestry, covering the period 2004-2010, and endorsed by the Asean ministers of agriculture and forestry meeting in Yangon in 2004.

Japan is the coordinator- country of the pilot project and provided about $380,000 (40 million yen) to finance the secretariat's expenses in 2004 and 2005.

"The rice reserve mechanism has been in place for more than two decades, but not a single Asean member-country ever tapped it," said Cantos.

She said the present crisis on rice will be the "ultimate test of regionalism" as the interests of rice-exporting, rice producing and rice-consuming nations should be harmonized to safeguard food security among Asean member-countries. - GMANews.TV



Next R1 News | Back to R1 in the News Page



Rice Watch and Action Network

© 2007 All Rights Reserved