Food security & Inflation

PM Reassures Regional Food Insecurity is No Issue

Southeast Asia does not have to fear food insecurity due to the surplus of rice stocks across ASEAN, Prime Minister Hun Sen said. However, he warned globally rising fuel prices is driving inflation across the region
A worker carries a pack of rice at a store in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa
A worker carries a pack of rice at a store in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Wednesday that Southeast Asian countries do not face issues of food insecurity as the bloc has plentiful rice stocks. However, he warned rising fuel prices are driving inflation.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, he said ASEAN countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Cambodia, stock more than 15 million tons of rice. In addition, India produces and exports most of the rice.

“ASEAN does not have a problem with food, but the big problem is the fuel that pushes inflation up,” Hun Sen said.

Inflation in May hit 7.2 percent, up from 3 percent during the same period last year. This marks a 13-year high as rising inflationary pressures pose serious policy challenges for Cambodian authorities, World Bank said in its latest report.

Rising food and energy prices have also eroded household purchasing power, said the bank. It added that international oil price increases are passing directly through to domestic prices. Increases in fertilizer and food prices further stoke inflationary pressures.

Cambodian economist Ky Sereyvath said on Wednesday that most of the ASEAN members are major agricultural countries.

“In ASEAN, we know that most members are agricultural countries. The countries that we know are the largest agricultural countries are Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.” Sereyvath told Kiripost.

Sereyvath said that most countries are agricultural for food supply and food processing for long-term use, so ASEAN does not face a food crisis.

Despite rising world oil prices and inflation, Hun Sen expressed hope that the war between Russia and Ukraine would end and Sereyvath added that Brunei is the only country in ASEAN that produces oil.

“Anyways the oil crisis in ASEAN is because Brunei is the only one country in ASEAN which produces oil, therefore the main oil problem is because it is a source of energy,” Sereyvath said.

“When we compare all ASEAN countries, there is no country that uses nuclear power or is powered by uranium reactors, and all of the transportation systems still use fuel for electricity.”

Even Laos’ vast abundance of hydropower is only used for industry and sold to neighboring countries. It cannot supply transportation systems, which is a challenge to energy consumption, he added.