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Leaders Call for New Partnerships to Ensure Food Security in South-East Asia

Fon Mathuros, Senior Director, Head of Media, Tel.: +41 (0)79 201 0211, Email:fmae8b944dcbac2f19856@77e54b2b27100ca16weforum.org

  • South-East Asian countries are making good progress in reducing hunger, but more action is needed 
  • Rising demand and climate volatility are placing increasing pressure on food systems
  • Innovation, investment and partnerships are needed to achieve lasting food security
  • The World Economic Forum is developing a new partnership, Grow Asia, to support ASEAN’s food security goals   
  • For more information on the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2014: http://wef.ch/ea14   

Metro Manila, Philippines 22 May 2014 In a region deeply vulnerable to the vagaries of natural disasters, climate change and food security – and where on average half of the population rely on agriculture for their livelihoods – participants in a session on agricultural transformation, at the World Economic Forum on East Asia, pledged their commitment to an innovative new regional solution.

Government and business leaders, alongside farmers and scientists, called for improved collaboration, linkages and technology transfers under the regional umbrella initiative Grow Asia as the best way to ensure food security in the region. Grow Asia, developed in tandem with the ASEAN Secretariat, is designed to advance food security and promote sustainable and inclusive agricultural growth as well as facilitate more active links across the entire value chain.

“We have more than 300 million smallholders in Asia and they are the most vulnerable,” said Franky Oesman Widjaja, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Indonesian agribusiness company Sinar Mas. “Sustainable agriculture is the only way forward.”

Noting that the challenge lies not only in producing more sustainable food amid an expanding global population, Estrella Penunia, Secretary-General of the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development in the Philippines, spoke of the need for tighter links from rice fields up. “The challenge for small farmers is how to link to services, how to organize ourselves as a group so we can better access services and negotiate better with private companies,” she said.

Acknowledging the complexities of attaining food security in the future, Ho Hsing-Chan, Group Managing Director, ASEAN, DuPont, Singapore, pointed to migratory trends that see more people in cities and the reluctance of young people to enter the farming sector. “We are struggling to get young people to come into the farming sector,” said Hsing-Chan. “The children of farmers are reluctant to be farmers themselves.”

However, Robert S. Ziegler, Director-General, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Philippines, said the future holds tremendous challenges and tremendous opportunities. He spoke of the “biological revolution”, how the development of resilient, higher-yield crops will help to ensure food security. “We know that change climate will throw at us major challenges. But we have at our disposal a tremendous array of new tools. Our understanding of biology, molecular genetics, this whole biological revolution, will allow us to develop crops that will withstand the onslaught of climate change.”

In Vietnam, a country forecast to be among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, pilot programmes over recent years have shown how science can mitigate the risks, said Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam. He said that multistakeholder, market-based initiatives had seen farmers boost their yields and income, while at the same time significantly reducing waste and emissions. He also emphasized a collaborative response: “The best response will come from everyone, not only the government.”

Lisa Dreier, Senior Director, Head of Food Security and Development Initiatives, World Economic Forum USA, also emphasized the need for new approaches and partnerships in the region. “The ASEAN region has significant potential to be a leader in environmentally and socially sustainable food production to further food security in the region. Realizing that potential will require innovative new approaches, including partnerships.”

The 23rd World Economic Forum on East Asia, hosted with the support of the Government of the Philippines, is taking place in Metro Manila on 21-23 May 2014. The theme of the meeting is, Leveraging Growth for Equitable Progress.

The Co-Chairs of the World Economic Forum on East Asia are: Yolanda Kakabadse, President, WWF International, Switzerland, Switzerland; Takeshi Niinami, Chairman, Lawson, Japan; Global Agenda Council on the Role of Business; Atsutoshi Nishida, Chairman of the Board, Toshiba Corporation, Japan; James T. Riady, Chief Executive Officer, Lippo Group, Indonesia.

Notes to Editors


The World Economic Forum is an international institution committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation in the spirit of global citizenship. It engages with business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

Incorporated as a not-for-profit foundation in 1971 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the Forum is independent, impartial and not tied to any interests. It cooperates closely with all leading international organizations (www.weforum.org).