November 20, 2023


EU-ASEAN Business Council unveils strategies for ASEAN agriculture sector in report


The EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC) published a report titled "Towards Achieving UN SDGs in ASEAN – the Role of Agriculture" on November 17.


The report outlines a strategic approach for transforming agricultural sectors 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 those challenges and advance the agricultural sector, the EU-ABC proposes several policy recommendations. These include empowering farmers through decent work and agri-science, promoting digital transformation and adopting modern agri-science 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.


Furthermore, the report stresses the importance of sustainable agri-chemical 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.


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, according to the EU-ABC. 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-ABC, 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."