Rising food prices, flood, drought, water scarcity, climate-related disasters, the global pandemic and conflicts near and far are driving increases in food insecurity across the Asia-Pacific region, according to an October 5 press release from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

FAO is hosting the Asia-Pacific symposium on Agrifood System Transformation in the Thai capital Bangkok from October 5-7, in a bid to ensure food security and nutrition in the face of the effects of the Covid-19 and current global political crises.

“The most vulnerable people of the region, including smallholder farmers and others who depend on the land for their livelihoods, along with the urban poor, are the most directly affected,” it said.

According to a recent UN report, about 2.5 million Cambodians experience severe food insecurity, or roughly 15 per cent of the Kingdom’s estimated population of 16 million.

Hean Vannhorn, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries who led the Cambodian delegation to the conference, shared the experience of the Cambodian agricultural sector in promoting “One Country one Priority Product”.

“Cambodia’s food system transformation, which has made significant progress, is designed to raise awareness of the food system among different actors from the national to the sub-national level,” he said.

According to Vannhorn, the Kingdom has completed a review of national food management systems, with FAO’s support, saying this will help the government build stronger institutional capacity for improving production and food safety.

“Looking at our region, as Cambodia holds the ASEAN chairmanship in 2022, it will continue to be a regional model in delivering better results for food security and nutrition. We are also calling for the support of the international community to solve our joint challenges,” he said.

Sok Silo, secretary-general of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), addressed the conference, saying that Cambodia does not expect serious food shortages as the country is a net exporter of food. However, he noted that Covid-19 and other crises related to food, fuel, fertiliser and finance have all posed threats to the food system.

FAO’s director-general Qu Dongyu said: “The region’s transformation needs to focus on outcomes that result in better production, better nutrition, better environment and a better life for all – ensuring that no one is left behind.”