Grow Asia: Innovation through Partnership for Sustainable Food Supply Chains

From innovations at farm level to the supermarket revolution, Asia’s food systems are undergoing a significant transformation. Alongside the opportunities that such change presents for consumers, governments and industry, considerable challenges persist. Climate change, market volatility and undeveloped regulatory frameworks are among these pressing issues, and it is imperative for invested stakeholders to address these challenges through cooperative measures.

The World Economic Forum, in partnership with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat and other key stakeholders from the public and private sectors, has answered this call and developed the Grow Asia Partnership to catalyse action that contributes to food security and sustainable and inclusive agriculture development in Southeast Asia. This initiative aims to serve as a convergence for multiple stakeholders to work together to effect change.

To kick-start this collaborative approach, the Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative hosted the inaugural Grow Asia Agriculture Forum on 21 May this year in Manila, Philippines. The one-day event engaged over 140 leaders from ASEAN governments, private sector, civil society, farmer associations and international organisations through a series of interactive and high-level discussions. What transpired was a multi-level and multi-dimensional sharing of insights to advance overall agriculture development as well as to forge a common vision for a regional partnership moving forward.

This multi-level collaboration is a significant step that seeks to strengthen agriculture development through a focus on smallholder farmers, environmental sustainability, regional trade, investment in technology and R&D, and a supportive regulatory framework. These solutions will contribute to action priorities and partnerships in Grow Asia member countries, as well as helping to shape the overall agenda for action of Grow Asia.

Emphasis on regional trade and the ASEAN economic community was expanded on during the breakout discussion led by FIA Executive Director Dr Bev Postma. During this session, several actionable solutions were discussed with a keen focus on laws pertaining to investment in R&D and technology and a push towards greater integration, cooperation and harmonisation of food standards. Dr Postma believes that together, these accelerators will enable ASEAN as a whole to push boundaries.

“Industries have a vested interest in improving food security and safety standards but may not have the convening power or resources to unlock sustainable innovation. Capitalising on multi-stakeholder partnership will be instrumental in addressing present and future challenges in this region and deliver a win-win-win for governments, businesses and citizens of ASEAN” said Dr Postma.

FIA member companies Cargill, Unilever and Nestlé played a leading role at the Forum and other companies saw the event as an excellent foundation for the development of the Grow Asia partnership.

“The Forum served as a call-to-action platform for not only stakeholders in the agricultural sector but all other industry partners.” Dr Postma said. “Multi-sectoral stakeholders were encouraged to adopt best practices in technological development and innovation to allow for sustainable growth in the food sector. This is something that companies are already pursuing in Asia, both individually and collectively”.

Notably, the Grow Asia Agriculture forum served as a stepping stone for the Grow Asia Partnership in enabling multiple stakeholders to forge a commitment to work in partnership across the food value chain and invest in innovative solutions supported by effective policies. These will not only contribute towards a stronger business climate in Asia but also enhance the region’s food security.

FIA will continue to support the Grow Asia Partnership, which will be formally launched later in the year. For more information, please visit the WEF website or contact the FIA Secretariat.

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