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The Asia Society and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Task Force report, Never an Empty Bowl: Sustaining Food Security in Asia, was the focus of the Ministerial Roundtable Meeting on Rice at the Third International Rice Congress held in Hanoi, Vietnam recently.
The Congress, organized every four years, is the world's largest gathering of rice policymakers, scientists, researchers, technology experts, and investors and this year has attracted over 1,600 attendees from 66 countries.
The Ministerial Roundtable Meeting was chaired by Vietnam's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cao Duc Phat, and Robert Zeigler, Director-General of IRRI. Representing the Asia Society at the meeting was C. Peter Timmer, the Task Force's principal advisor. Officials from 19 countries and seven international and aid organizations, including the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, UN Development Programme, and the Asian Development Bank participated in the meeting.
Participants shared their insights into how the Task Force report fits into their own specific national and institutional food security plans and expressed unanimous support for the report's findings and recommendations. All participants agreed that implementing the four major recommendations contained in the report are critical to achieving food security in the long-term and improving access to affordable rice in Asia and throughout the world.
One common theme to emerge from the meeting was how Asia's growing population and economic development will impact the availability of rice for future generations. Participants widely agreed on the need for greater investments into strengthening the global rice economy, particularly in Asia, to reduce supply vulnerability and prevent the emergence of another food crisis like that in 2008.
"There was great enthusiasm for the messages contained in the report and for the clarity in which they were presented," said Peter Timmer after the Ministerial Roundtable Meeting. "The next step is for participating officials to take the report back to their countries (and institutions) and utilize it as a framework to help analyze and formulate their own food security policies."
The report's release came shortly after the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation warned that low priority given to the farm sector over the past three decades had led to volatile prices of commodities.
The International Rice Research Institute, headquartered in the Philippines, estimated that annual investment of 120 million dollars in Asia between 2010 and 2030 could increase productivity by 8.5 per cent over the next 25 years.