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Food Security and Economic Growth: An Asian Perspective


  • Peter Timmer



Food security is an elusive concept. Many economists doubt that it has any precise meaning at all. Having enough to eat on a regular basis, however, is a powerful human need, and satisfying this need drives household behavior in both private and public markets in predictable ways. Indeed, the historical record suggests that policy initiatives by central governments to satisfy this need for food security—at the level of both households and national markets—can speed economic growth in countries where a substantial proportion of the population does not get enough to eat. Paradoxically, in most successfully developing countries, especially those in the rice-based economies of Asia, the public provision of food security quickly slips from its essential role as an economic stimulus into a political response to the pressures of rapid structural transformation, thereby becoming a drag on economic efficiency. The long-run relationship between food security and economic growth thus tends to switch from positive to negative over the course of development. Because of inevitable inertia in the design and implementation of public policy, this switch presents a serious challenge to the design of an appropriate food policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Timmer, 2004. "Food Security and Economic Growth: An Asian Perspective," Working Papers 51, Center for Global Development.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:51

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    Cited by:

    1. Marks, Daan, 2010. "Unity or diversity? On the integration and efficiency of rice markets in Indonesia, c. 1920-2006," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 310-324, July.
    2. Soriano, Bárbara & Garrido, Alberto, 2016. "How important is economic growth for reducing undernourishment in developing countries?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 87-101.
    3. ., 2013. "Explaining Success and Failure in Economic Development," Chapters,in: World Economic Performance, chapter 9, pages 227-267 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Angga Dwiartama & Cinzia Piatti, 2016. "Assembling local, assembling food security," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 33(1), pages 153-164, March.
    5. World Bank Group, 2014. "Myanmar : Rice Price Reduction and Poverty Reduction," World Bank Other Operational Studies 21119, The World Bank.
    6. Juan José Perfetti, 2007. "The RESA intervention model: Towards overcoming hunger in rural areas," CUADERNOS DE FEDESARROLLO 012705, FEDESARROLLO.

    More about this item


    Food security; democracy; foreign assistance; economic development;

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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