Hunger alleviation fund to ensure food security

Manila: Concerned over the impact of rising prices of commodities on the poor, a report on food security released here today suggested a "hunger alleviation fund" by Asia and the Pacific nations to deal with the problem.

The `Food Security and Poverty in Asia and the Pacific` report, presented at the 5th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of Asian Development Bank (ADB) recommended, "the governments to set up a hunger alleviation fund, representing 1 per cent of a country`s gross domestic product, to be used when food prices grow beyond the reach of the poor".

"The planet is now home to seven billion people and rising. One of the key challenges for developing Asia will be ensuring food security in the face of competing rural demands, poor agricultural management, and climate change, while not compromising on equitable economic growth," said Xianbin Yao, Director General of ADB`s Pacific Department.

The report said the funds could be jointly managed with the private sector, with companies being encouraged to contribute, using incentives such as tax breaks.
It also stressed upon the need for targeted subsidies for those who need it the most.

It was also pointed out that reducing food waste and storage losses could close the gap between supply and demand by 15-25 per cent, and a second Green Revolution one that relies on biotechnology to increase food production is needed.

The report also asked the governments to explore measures like weather-based crop insurance and futures contracts that would give farmers a guaranteed minimum income.

The report pointed out that the key challenges and policy issues show that despite rapid economic growth in Asia, food insecurity and inequality remain a reality for millions.

It mentioned that the situation is the most dire in South Asia, where six out of 10 of Asia`s hungry reside and eight out of 10 underweight children live.

According to the study projections, the problem will intensify as global population increases by more than two billion between now and 2050, with Asia accounting for more than half of the increase.

Moreover, Asia`s emerging middle class will change consumption patterns as they shift away from cereal grains and demand more meat, vegetables and fruits, which require more water and other inputs, putting further strain on shrinking resources, it added.

As per its inference, meeting the rising demand for food, animal feed and biofuel will result in higher regional food prices that could erode the purchasing power of households and undermine poverty reduction.

Despite the reduction in poverty rates across Asia in the late 2000s, the pace of poverty reduction was slowed down by food price hikes.

ADB estimates that an additional 112 million people could have escaped poverty in Asia annually had there been no increase in food prices during the period.

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