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Asia and the Pacific region is the most economically vibrant region in the world today, having achieved and maintained accelerated economic growth in recent decades. As a result, within one generation, many people in this region have escaped from the poverty trap. Ensuring an enabling policy and economic environment, supported by adequate investment and strengthened human and institutional capacities have fuelled this growth; advances in the agriculture and rural sectors have played their part and, in turn, they have benefited from good overall economic performance. Among recent trends, growth in China and India is noteworthy in terms of its sheer scale and the degree of regional and global impact that is being manifested at an increasing rate. In these two major countries, as in other Asian economies, the agriculture sector continues to play a pivotal role in almost all stages of development; smaller vibrant economies in the region, such as Thailand and Viet Nam have demonstrated how effectively they have made agricultural growth and trade contribute to reduction of poverty and food insecurity. Even in the Republic of Korea — regarded as a paragon of manufacturing-based export-led growth — agriculture has nevertheless played a crucial role in the initial stages of development.

Despite Asia still having the largest number of food-insecure people, the current trends of economic growth and agricultural performance indicate that the region stands a good chance of reaching the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG1) — halving the proportion of hungry people by 2015. However, achieving the World Food Summit (WFS) goal of halving the number of undernourished will require significant acceleration of hunger reduction efforts in the next ten years. Achievement of MDG1 and the WFS goal could be accelerated if the positive impacts of rapid growth in the larger economies are captured by other countries in the region, including in their own agriculture and rural development sectors. These sectors are an essential conduit for the benefits of economic growth to reach the less favourably placed segments of the population.

As a part of their mandate to analyse the driving forces of change in the region and the emerging policy assistance needs of member countries, the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and the Policy Assistance Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched a study to improve understanding of these major developments and their implications. In this context, they conceived and carried out a diagnostic study on China, India and selected Asian economies: implications of rapid economic growth for agriculture and food security in Asia and Pacific Rim countries. The study has been elaborated by national experts and covers the experience of five selected Asian countries — China, India, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam. In the cases of China and India, the study analyses their recent phenomenal growth and the implications for their own agriculture sectors and those of other countries, particularly in the region but also further afield. For the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam, the study covers similar ground but draws particular attention to the lessons of experience from policies, institutional reforms and programmes implemented in these countries which might be of value to a wider regional audience.

Considering the recent volumes of literature on the strides made by China and India, the FAO case studies have not sought to duplicate the work of others but instead have drawn on them where appropriate, building further analysis and interpretation on existing knowledge. The studies help to gauge the existing and emerging impacts on countries in the region; in addition, the Chinese and Indian experience gives important insights into the major factors driving economic growth, highlights being the roles of the agriculture and non-agricultural sectors and the major policy and institutional changes that have facilitated agricultural growth, poverty reduction and food security. They also draw attention to crucial challenges to surmount if growth is to be sustained in these two countries.

The experiences of the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam provide interesting examples of major success in economic transition and the accompanying evolution of agricultural development and food security. Although the countries differ in stages of development and in their historical contexts, initial conditions and economic systems, each has made significant strides in addressing poverty and food security by adopting policy and institutional measures tailored to specific contexts. Documentation of their experience is expected to provide relevant lessons to a number of countries that are presently grappling with similar issues, including the reduction of inter-sectoral disparity, adjustment of domestic policies in tune with the new rules of international trade and sustaining agricultural growth and rural development to eradicate poverty and hunger.

The results of the diagnostic study are presented in a set of three volumes. This volume is a synthesis of the main findings and conclusions of the five country case studies supplemented by additional information from various published sources. The volume concludes with a summary of lessons learned designed to assist countries in accelerating and /or sustaining agricultural and rural development to achieve the MDG of poverty and hunger eradication. The second volume presents the country case studies of China and India — experiences of rapid growth and its implications for the region and beyond, while the third volume describes the experiences and lessons from the country case studies of Republic of Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam.

We hope that readers, particularly those concerned with agricultural development policy, will find the diagnostic study interesting and useful in their work. This work needs to be addressed further and FAO invites other national and regional institutions that are active in analytical and policy fields to join forces for future endeavours.

Rapid growth of selected Asian economies. Lessons and implications for agriculture and food security: Synthesis report

Rapid growth of selected Asian economies. Lessons and implications for agriculture and food security: Synthesis report

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

Mafa Chipeta
Policy Assistance Division

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