With food security a pressing issue globally and especially in the Asia-Pacific Region, finding ways to solve food challenges is moving up the political agenda. But how can an island city-state like Singapore take major action with its urban population and land limitations? On the sidelines of the International Conference on Asian Food Security 2011, our latest Forward Thought Leadership Series interview explores steps to solving the crisis with Prof. Paul Teng.
There are four basic dimensions: availability, physical access, economic access, and utilisation. For availability, it’s all about the supply–is there enough to go around? This is determined by production, stock levels, food aid, and net trade. Productivity is a big issue, but it’s not sufficient to ensure household food security. Physical access to food is also another key consideration—households must have access to healthy, nutritious food. Conflicts, poor infrastructure, logistics issues, and market imperfections can all become barriers. Economic access is likewise critical, and purchasing prices must be in line with real income so people can actually afford to buy food. And of course, while a household may have the capacity to purchase all the food it needs, it may not have the ability to utilize that capacity to use it to the fullest. This relates more to the nutritional status of an individual— think in terms of feeding practices, food preparation, storage, etc. People living in slums may have living conditions affect nutritional status in the form of malnutrition and poor health. In the bigger picture, is also related the issue of investment. Are governments especially investing enough into agriculture and reserves, the mechanisms to alleviate potential for food security crisis?