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Regional Cooperation and Socioeconomic Reforms to Improve Food and Nutrition Security in Eurasia through Trade and Investment

Date: 01.06.2018

A set of economic and governance reforms initiated in Uzbekistan in 2017 have significant implications for agriculture, food security, and nutrition in the country, according to the 2018 Global Food Policy Report released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) at a conference in Tashkent.

“These reforms create a more favorable environment for Uzbekistan’s agricultural producers, especially cotton and wheat producers, by eliminating the hidden tax on the sector created by exchange controls in the past,” said Dr. Kamiljon Akramov, research fellow and Leader of the Central Asia Program at IFPRI, at the report launch. The report is the latest in an annual analysis of developments in food policy around the developing world, based on the most recent available evidence.  

In the agriculture sector, the Uzbek government is continuing to prioritize diversification of agricultural production and a shift to horticultural products. Policy reforms also aim to increase access to machinery, fertilizers, and credit and simplify export requirements for local producers. However, the government should implement such policies by creating enabling environment and competitive market conditions and using fiscally sustainable approaches.

Remittances remain a vital source of poverty reduction and improved food security in the region. After peaking in 2013, remittances inflow from Russia to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan fell drastically in 2015 and 2016, making a recovery in 2017. Relatively stable food prices in the region also contributed to the food security of poorer households, continuing the trend of decline in poverty and undernourishment rates. However, the report also highlights how micronutrient deficiencies on the one hand, and simultaneous rising overweight and obesity across all countries in the region on the other hand, make nutrition an increasing concern to be addressed.

On trade within the region, poor regional integration and cooperation have been serious impediments to development and food security in Central Asia, but the report points out that the recent political changes in Uzbekistan have created a more favorable environment for regional cooperation, indicating a deepening commitment to improving regional ties. Regional trade has received a further push from the bilateral agreements signed over the last two years between countries in the region and China.

Globally, the report notes that the rise of isolationism and protectionism, visible in the US withdrawal from multilateral trade and climate agreements, the UK’s “Brexit” from the EU, and growing anti-immigration rhetoric in developed countries, threatens to slow progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals and improved food security and nutrition. 

Although backlash against globalization has been mostly portrayed as a phenomenon affecting the developed world, the report highlights how rolling back global integration could harm the livelihoods of millions of poor people in the developing world as well. 

“Policies that encouraged globalization through more open trade, migration, and knowledge sharing have been critical to recent unprecedented reductions in hunger and poverty,” said IFPRI Director General, Dr. Shenggen Fan. “Enacting policies to leverage the benefits of globalization while minimizing the risks that fuel antiglobalism will be critical to meet the Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger and poverty by 2030.”   

When international trade is open, however, authors in the report argue it improves food security. “Trade has become a symbol of the failures of globalization, but it has been essential for many of our greatest achievements in improving livelihoods across the globe in recent decades,” said David Laborde, senior researcher at IFPRI and co-author of the report chapter on trade.  

Facilitated by global agreements, trade has lowered the average cost of food worldwide and expanded access to more and more diversified foods. Trade barriers, on the contrary, lead to high food prices in land-scarce countries, depressed food prices in land-abundant countries and lower real income in both. While the authors recognize the potential risks associated with trade opening—including rising inequality, health impacts, increased energy use, and environmental damage—they argue these are better addressed with policies that directly target the source of the problem, rather than by hampering trade.   

This year’s report also features chapters on how global private investments in agriculture can help the world meet the Zero Hunger goal; the role of open access data in improving livelihoods; as well as updated data sets on agricultural investment, public expenditures, and more. 

The report emphasizes that despite daunting challenges the world currently faces, improving food systems provides a path to address them within the sustainability parameters of the planet. 

“Food systems have the unique potential to fix many of our most pressing global problems, but must be transformed into sustainable systems that support healthy diets for all,” said Fan.  

For more information on the report, click here: http://gfpr.ifpri.info/ ### 

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries. www.ifpri.org.

 

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