Agriculture sector to ensure sustainable development

Singapore – 17 November, The EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC) today published a report titled “Towards Achieving UN SDGs in ASEAN – the Role of Agriculture”, which outlines a strategic approach for transforming the agricultural sector across ASEAN member states to align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This blueprint underscores the importance of agriculture in fostering economic growth and social development, particularly in rural communities.

Agriculture is central to the ASEAN region, with significant rural populations in countries like Cambodia (74.89%) and Myanmar (68.23%). The sector's impact on the economy is substantial, contributing 22.8% to Cambodia's GDP and 22.7% in Myanmar in 2021. It also plays a critical role in employment, with 31.9% of the workforce in Thailand and 28.3% in Indonesia engaged in agriculture.

These figures highlight the sector's pivotal role in sustaining rural economies and driving overall economic development. The report elaborates on the key role of agriculture in achieving various UN SDGs, particularly those related to eradicating poverty, combating hunger, promoting decent work, and preserving life on land. 

It also addresses the challenges hindering these goals, including climate vulnerability, economic obstacles, technological gaps, and misconceptions surrounding organic farming. To overcome these challenges and advance the agricultural sector, the EU-ABC proposes several policy recommendations. These include empowering farmers through decent work and agriscience, promoting digital transformation, and adopting modern agriscience and plant breeding technologies.

The report also advocates for the adoption of the ASEAN Digital Economic Framework Agreement (DEFA) to modernise agricultural practices, enhance efficiency, and foster regional collaboration. Further, the report stresses the importance of sustainable agrichemical practices and the development of regenerative agriculture to improve soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem resilience.

By implementing these strategies, ASEAN's agricultural sector can not only overcome current challenges but also contribute significantly to regional food security, economic growth, and global sustainability goals.

As ASEAN aspires to become one of the world’s largest economies by 2050, the key recommendations and strategies presented in the report offers a clear and actionable path for transforming agriculture in ASEAN into a dynamic, sustainable, and productive sector. The Council recognises the importance of public-private partnerships in this transformative journey, advocating for a shift from traditional production support to innovative, sustainable practices.

All in all, the report provides an in-depth analysis of the current state of agriculture in ASEAN, the challenges it faces, and the strategies needed to align with the UN SDGs, offering a roadmap for a sustainable and prosperous agricultural future in the region.

Chris Humphrey, Executive Director of the EU-ASEAN Business Council, commenting on the report said, “Agriculture is a key industry for the ASEAN region. Ensuring that the sector is well placed to continue feeding the people of ASEAN, and doing so in a sustainable way, is vital. This report today lays a number of recommendations that the Council and its members believe will further drive the sector forward, helping the region ensure better food security, increasing yields and the nutritional value of the food produced, reducing wastage, boosting rural incomes, and making the agriculture sector more attractive as a career choice for all, and doing so in a way that both protects the environment, the lives of farmers, and ensures the long-term viability of agricultural production. It will require a true collaborative effort from policymakers, the private sectors, and rural communities, but we believe it can be done to the benefit of all of the citizens of ASEAN.”

About the EU-ASEAN Business Council

The EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC) is the primary and sole voice for European business covering all of the ASEAN region. It is recognised by the European Commission and the ASEAN Secretariat and is an accredited entity under Annex 2 of the ASEAN Charter. Independent of both bodies, the Council has been established to help promote the interests of European businesses operating within ASEAN and to advocate for changes in policies and regulations which would help promote trade and investment between Europe and the ASEAN region.

The Council works on a sectorial and cross-industry basis to help improve the investment and trading conditions for European Businesses in the ASEAN region through influencing policy and decision makers throughout the region and in the EU, as well as acting as a platform for the exchange of information and ideas amongst its members and regional players within the ASEAN region.

The EU-ABC’s membership consists of large European Multi-National Corporations and the nine European Chambers of Commerce from around Southeast Asia. The EU-ABC represents a diverse range of European industries cutting across almost every commercial sphere from car manufacturing through to financial services and including Fast Moving Consumer Goods and high-end electronics and communications. Our members all have a common interest in enhancing trade, commerce and investment between Europe and ASEAN.

The Executive Director of the EU-ASEAN Business Council is Mr Chris Humphrey, and its Chairman is Jens Ruebbert. The Council is led by an elected Board consisting of corporate leaders representing a range of important industry sectors and representatives of the European Chambers of Commerce.