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Food Security and Poverty in Asia and the Pacific: Key Challenges and Policy Issues

Ensuring a secure supply of food is essential, given the world’s (and especially Asia’s) growing population, high and volatile food prices, increasingly scarce resources, and changing environment. This paper discusses the drivers behind food insecurity in Asia and points to ways to mitigate it.

The world’s population has now reached 7 billion, and is projected to increase by more than 2 billion between now and 2050. Asia will account for majority of the increase. And Asia’s growing affluence is shifting food demand away from cereal grains toward meat, vegetables, and fruits, which require more water, land, and other inputs than do cereals.

Asia, which is home to most of the world’s poor and undernourished populations, is finding increasing difficulty feeding its people as demand for food expands rapidly just as water and land resources decline. Because of these pressures, food prices have been rising since the 2000s. High and volatile food prices are eroding the purchasing power of households—especially of poor ones, which spend up to 70% of their budgets on food—and are thus undermining recent gains in poverty reduction. The impact of higher food prices is severe—an additional 112 million people could have escaped poverty in Asia during the late 2000s if food prices had not increased during the period. Thus, long- and shortterm strategies are needed to ensure food security and bolster efforts at poverty reduction. Policies to enhance food security that are discussed in this paper include safety net and social protection programs, and policies that promote agricultural productivity, rural development, agricultural research, and human capital investment. 

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