The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have slashed agricultural production in Southeast Asia in the first quarter of 2020 with losses expected to amount to $3.76 billion, or 1.4 percent of the region’s gross domestic product, a regional think tank said.
Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) said in its paper, titled “Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Agriculture Production in Southeast Asia: Reinforcing Transformative Change in Agricultural Food Systems,” that Southeast Asian countries would see a 3.11-percent cut in agricultural output during the period. About 17.03 million metric tons of produce are expected to be lost due to the virus, affecting some 100.77 million farmers.
As such, the organization said the region should be able to balance trade and food security needs.
“It is understandable that countries would first think of its own food security before others, but a collective enhancement of capacities leading to higher agricultural productivity is crucial,” Searca director Glenn Gregorio and Rico Ancog said in their paper.
“While most of the efforts are targeted within a country, it would be critical that policies supporting trade in Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) must be strengthened to simultaneously support productive and inclusive agricultural systems that ensure food security in the region,” they added.
Agriculture remains a major job-generating sector in Asean with 31 percent of the combined population employed in the industry.
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