ASEAN ministers promise to continue food security measures amid COVID-19

James Kon

In response to the current outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) vowed to continue to ensure food security, food safety and nutrition in ASEAN member countries.

“We, the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry express our deep concern over the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which has affected the lives of people and economies, including food, agriculture and forestry sectors in ASEAN and globally,” a release stated.

“We emphasised the importance of the food, agriculture and forestry sector, and pledge to ensure that essential, safe and nutritious produce can continue to reach ASEAN markets during the COVID-19 outbreak. We note with concern its potential impact on ASEAN cooperation in food, agriculture and forestry as well as disruption to the food supply chain in the region.”

The ministers agreed that as countries combat the COVID-19 pandemic, they must also make every effort to keep the gears of their food supply chains moving.

The ASEAN Chairman’s Statement on ASEAN Collective Response to the Outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 expressed the solidarity and unity of ASEAN in its efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ministers also recalled the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Statement on strengthening ASEAN’s economic resilience in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, which resolved to remain committed in keeping the ASEAN market open for trade and investment.

To ensure a sustainable supply of sufficient, affordable, safe and nutritious food that meet the dietary requirements of the ASEAN populations, the ministers reaffirmed commitments in the implementation of the Statement of ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry on Food Security and Nutrition to improve storage, preservation, transport and distribution technologies and infrastructure to reduce food insecurity, food nutrient loss and waste.
The ministers also promised to keep the trade lines open, including via air, sea and land freight, to facilitate the flow of agricultural and food products, and that critical infrastructure such as air and seaports remain open to support the viability and integrity of supply chains.

In accordance with the rights and obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) covered agreements and the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), ASEAN member countries will refrain from imposing new export control, restrictions and prohibitions, tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

Meanwhile, ASEAN member countries also strived to reduce excessive price volatility particularly price spikes, ensure adequate emergency food and reserves and provide timely and accurate market information through the effective implementation of the ASEAN Food Security Information System (AFSIS) and ASEAN Plus Three Rice Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR).

The ministers agreed to strengthen the role of the ASEAN Food Security Reserve Board (AFSRB) to promptly provide periodic exchanges of information on national food and agricultural policies and stocking policies as well as production, consumption and storage programmes pertaining to basic food commodities among ASEAN member countries; undertake a periodic evaluation of the food situation and prospects in the ASEAN region as well as worldwide, including trade, prices, quality and stocks of basic food commodities (such as rice, maize and sugar) through the ASEAN Food Security Reserve Board (AFSRB) as focal point, as well as AFSIS and APTERR in coordinating with relevant working groups (food, crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry) under SOM AMAF.