Development, Trade and Foreign Affairs

POLICY BRIEF: Global Food Insecurity and Implications for Cambodia: What the country can do

The Origin of Food Security

General speaking, the food security can be simply referred to the food-producing ability to meet with people’s needs, not only in terms of the adequate amount of food quantity, but also including the food preferences of individuals and the food necessary for health and growth. Based on the 1996 World Food Security Summit in Rome, the food security is defined as the state in which people all the times have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs for a healthy and active life.[1]  In this sense, Global Food Security Index (GFSI) was created for the several unique indicators to measure three core issues namely affordability, availability, and quality and safety among 109 countries both developed and developing countries.[2] Both governments and non-governmental organisations have been working closely and collaboratively together by starting from every corner of the world to address the global food insecurity. Even though there are strong commitments to counter with the food insecurity around the globe by laying down a bunch of action plans and targeting a wide range of objectives in order to achieve them, but still it remains as the global challenges nowadays. Although modern technological equipments have been highly advanced and innovated know-how has been significantly discovered during this 21st century, yet enormous amount of people still carry on confronting remarkable challenges with food insufficiency.

Global Food Insecurity Remains as Key Challenges

           Next year is 2015, the world will reach its deadline of MDGs which one among eight of them is to eliminate the extreme poverty and hunger. Nevertheless, it is still a long way to go in order to achieve for this particular goal. In this respect, Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General said at the Food Security Summit in 2009 that “This day, more than 17,000 children will die of hunger. One every five seconds. Six million children a year. The world has more than enough food. Yet, today, more than one billion people are hungry.”[3] Obviously, this presented data showing that despite of advanced countries, food insecurity has become a serious common threat to the poorest countries, which involving with life and death. Even though these countries depend largely on the agricultural sector to feed the economic growth and there are abundant labours in the countryside, still they are struggling to cultivate their crops producing inadequate quantity to support its own people, as of poor irrigation systems, only growing in raining season, inappropriate fertiliser uses, no research and development on agriculture products, and so on. From perspective of humanitarian and the concept of globalisation, it thereby does not mean that the food security is only a threat to poorest countries as human being cannot live by others’misery and as the world is interdependent and interconnected. Yet, it is definitely a global challenges which it demands a set of collective measures and practical policies to tackle both in a local level and the international level.

Actually, the food insecurity is the multidimensional factors as there are a lot of issues intertwined with at the same time. Nevertheless, it has largely taken place in the less developing countries where it simply can be found with the weak institutions of governments and its low economic growth. It does not only concern with the less development in the area of agriculture development, but it is closely related to a whole range of economic, political, social, and environmental issues within a country and region at large. From this point of view, it creates a bunch of complicated problems which this respective country does not have sufficient capabilities to tackle with. In this connection, it therefore remains in the trap of poverty and food insecurity. Contrastingly, in developed countries the food insecurity is less while the accessibility to good equality of food is remaining high comparing to other states.

Figure 1 indicates the a big gap of Global Food Security Index (GFSI) between the region of advanced countries and other regions. The high levels of GDP per capita at an average of US$32,462 measured in terms of purchasing power parity and developed agricultural infrastructure with low political stability risk of North America and Europe contribute to the first and second ranking in the regional results and comparisons.[4] Yet, once again it does not mean they do not face with the weaknesses and challenges in the areas of food security.


Figure 1 Regional Results and Comparisons

Source: Food Security in Focus: North America 2014, a report from The Economist Intelligent Units (EIU) report commissioned by Dupont, page 3, available at (

Implications for Cambodia

Cambodia is particularly located in the mainland of Southeast Asia in between Thailand and Vietnam. Similar to the other poor countries, Cambodia nowadays still relies on the agricultural productivity as the comparative advantage for exporting since it has abundant manpower in the countryside and as industrialisation in the urban city remains less. As indicated by the Economist Intelligence Units in the Global Food Security Index, there are at least six different challenges that Cambodia confronting such as public expenditure on agriculture R&D (Research and Development), corruption, food consumption as a share of household expenditure, gross domestic product per capita (PPP), diet diversification, and agricultural infrastructure.[5] While at the same time, despite of the above challenges there are also several issues that take into account in the countering with food insecurity in Cambodia such as the market access, rural credit and stronger institutions, pointed out by the Cambodia’s leading independent development policy research institute (CDRI).[6]

Figure 2 Food Prices Cambodia[7]


Figure 2 pointed out the declining of global food price while the current food price in Cambodia remains high. The serious challenges, that Cambodian people currently face, are the food and gasoline prices increased by 0.2% on month-on-month basis, food purchasing power of households increased in rural and urban areas by 10.2% and 3.7% respectively on month-on-month basis, retail price of low quality rice in rural and urban areas decreased by 3.3% and 2.2% respectively on month-on-month basis, and wholesale price of mixed rice increased by 5.9% month-on month and decreased by 1.8% on a year-on-year basis.[8] In this connection, it causes more difficulties for poor people who are living in the urban and rural areas, specifically farmers, to pay for debt relief and buy seeds and fertiliser for cultivating in the next seasons. Nonetheless, those challenges are additionally concerned with the different features of social problems in practice which also including poverty, human resources, empowerment of women, inequality, land reform, sustainability of development, population growth, rapid rural-to-urban migration, climate dependence and environment endowment, and public health as well.

What are the policy priorities should be addressed?

Food security has been addressed as the global challenges for a long time ago, yet it still continues to appear as the global challenges even the collective efforts have been laid down since the 1996 World Food Summit in Italy. Nevertheless, there is also significant progress that has been achieved regarding to the countering of the food insecurity across the regions around the globe. In this sense, in order to pursue greater attainments of food security from local to international level, the momentum of the collective cooperations between the developed countries and developing countries with the participation from Intergovernmental organisations and Non-governmental Organisations are paramount important in which it should encourage to further implement and include new action plans and objectives.

Since the food insecurity has closely intertwined with a whole range of economic, political, social, and environment issues of respective country, then the possible policy options of Cambodia shall undertakeis inside out approach which comprising of three different stages.

–      Short-term approach (within 1 year): Regarding to the domestic concern, the price of food and other basic commodities should be examined and regulated in the reasonable price under the authority of ministry in charge to ensure the farmers could have ability to access food and to grow rice the fields. In addition, the ongoing land reform and the private property law shall be strictly and intensively enforced making sure that every family of farmers have lands for cultivating their crops. More essentially, in order to make this possible, multilateral diplomatic campaign with the development partners such as USAID, AUSAID, EU, UNICEF, and other related IOs/NGOs should undertake to seek for both financial and technical assistance and supports.

–      Medium-term approach (within 1-5 years): In the light of encouraging the progress of agricultural development, the tariff on the importing agricultural machinery and importing fertiliser should continue to be deducted and eliminated. While at the same time, rural loan credit is simplified to make it easier for farmers to access for better equipment. The agricultural infrastructure is also essentially important for connecting from rice fields to the marketplace. At the same time, government also has obligations to find new markets for agricultural products. Moreover, as ASEAN Economic Community is coming by 2015, it will be beneficial to enlarge demand and supply chains due to the free flow of goods and services. Cambodia should also take this opportunities to attract more foreign direct investment to not only boost export, but also bring technology and know-how on the areas of agricultural sector as it is a comparative advantage.

–      Long-term approach (within 5-10 years): Upholding greater principle of democracy, rule of law, good governance, and independent juridical power will lay down concrete foundation for  the momentum of high economic growth and political stability in countering poverty and ensuring food security at large. Furthermore, human resource development, Research and Development (R&D), diet diversification, and self-sufficient energy are the key strategic to sustain the progress in this long-term stage. In order to achieve these particular goals, mutual cooperations and joint projects with development partners need to increasingly enhanced in order to get more and more technology transfer and lesson-learned from advanced countries’experiences. In this sense, Cambodia possibly uses the ASEAN channel, the Greater Mekong Subregion, CLMV (Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-and Vietnam) and CLV (Cambodia-Laos-and Vietnam) to benefit itself from intensifying the existing mutual cooperations and initiating new projects among members themselves and its dialogue partners.

Seoul, 20 June 2014

by Khov Ea Hai

Instructed by Prof. Jeffrey Robertson



[1]“Wolrd Food Summit,”Rome Declaration on World Food Security, 13-17 November 1996, Rome, available at (

[2]“Food Security in Focus: Asia-Pacific 2014,”a report from The Economist Intelligent Units (EIU) report commissioned by Dupont, page 1, available at (

[3]Ban Ki-moon, “Speech on Check against Delivery,”Opening Remark at the Food Security Summit, Rome, Nov 2009.

[4]“Food Security in Focus: North America 2014,”a report from The Economist Intelligent Units (EIU) report commissioned by Dupont, page 4, available at (

[5]“Global Food Security Index,”Cambodia, The Economist Intelligence Units, available at (

[6] ASEAN 2030: Growing Together for Economic Prosperity-the Challenges,”Cambodia Background Paper, CDRI Working Paper Series N0. 90, Cambodia’s leading independent development policy research institute, Phnom Penh, 2014, page 14

[7]“Food Price Cambodia,”Food Security Portal, Washington, 20014, available at (

[8]“Cambodia, Overview,”World Food Programme, Fighting Hunger Worldwide, February 2014, available at (

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This entry was posted on April 1, 2016 by in Development Policy and tagged .






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