ADB allots $14B for program to ease food crisis in Asia

Vendors arrange their goods at a public market in Manila. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ RUSSEL A. PALMA

THE ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) is planning to allocate at least $14 billion for a program aimed at easing a food crisis in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The future of food and nutrition security in Asia and the Pacific depends on the region’s ability to address [the] current food price crisis, as well as the long-term challenges of climate change,” said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa at a press briefing on Tuesday.   

“Floods, droughts, heat, disease, and other factors affected by climate change will have an impact on food production. Disruptions to livelihoods will drive even more food scarcity, compounded by climate-induced migration,” he added.    

Assistance under the program will start this year and run until 2025.

The amount of $14 billion will be drawn from the multilateral lender’s sovereign and private sector operations.

Broken down, $3.3 billion in commitments is expected to be mobilized this year, of which $1 billion is from repurposed funds for countercyclical support and $1.5 billion from projects on agriculture, natural resources, and rural development. 

The rest, or $800 million, is expected to reach the private sector, particularly as support to trade and supply chain finance; financing to agribusiness and to farmers; and lending to financial institutions that will support food and agriculture small and medium enterprises. 

The ADB said that it also seeks to leverage from the private sector an additional $5 billion as co-financing for food security initiatives.

“This is a timely and urgently needed response to a crisis that is leaving too many poor families in Asia hungry and in deeper poverty… Our support will be targeted, integrated, and impactful to help vulnerable people, particularly vulnerable women, in the near term, while bolstering food systems to reduce the impact of emerging and future food security risks,” Mr. Asakawa said in a separate statement.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted supply of food, fertilizer and fuel, causing a food crisis in many countries still recovering from the pandemic.

ADB Country Director Kelly Bird told BusinessWorld that it is currently in talks with the Philippine government, not just for the assistance program from 2023 to 2025, but also in relation to a Country Partnership Strategy from 2024 to 2029.

“This will be aligned with the administration’s eight-point agenda which prioritizes food security,” Mr. Bird said, mentioning how it will focus on improving agricultural competitiveness and raising rural incomes.

“We are preparing with the Philippines a policy-based loan to improve agriculture productivity. The second subprogram is planned for approval at the end of this year,” he added, while also citing future planned partnerships on flood management, irrigation, and agribusiness. 

For next year until 2025, the ADB has programmed $10.7 billion, which is built on strategies “to build stronger, more sustainable, and equitable food systems.”

“We are scaling up our climate mitigation and climate adaptation investments across the entire food and agriculture value chain,” Mr. Asakawa said, noting how it is inclusive of support to smallholder farmers and women in strengthening agricultural communities.

Mr. Asakawa also said that the ADB will promote digital transformation initiatives and nature-based solutions.

The former “will improve the efficiency of agricultural production and value chains, including fisheries and livestock,” while the latter will “develop innovative financial instruments to attract capital that will build environment-friendly food systems, and to promote more balanced diets.”

In the Global Food Security Index Q2 2022 released by consultancy agency Deep Knowledge Analytics last month, the Philippines placed 146th out of 171 countries and last in East and Southeast Asia. Its food security index score of 5.05 out of 10 reflected the need for improvement in food accessibility, crisis level, and food system and economy resilience. — Diego Gabriel C. Robles