As countries in Southeast Asia grapple with the growing challenge of feeding their populations, they continue to prioritise rice in their national and regional food security strategies. In an effort to provide a means for emergency food aid and simultaneously address the issues faced by the rice sector – namely, a lack of confidence and transparency – the region has been involved in several regional emergency rice reserves since the 1970s. However, until recently, none of these reserves have been utilised in emergencies and trust issues remain prevalent in the rice sector.
The working paper of the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS) in Singapore examines the prospects for the latest ‘improved’ model, the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) launched in July 2012. It looks at whether the APTERR can overcome the limitations of past rice reserves, which include low stocks and inefficient supply processes, and thus contribute to improving the food security of ASEAN member states through a more stable rice sector. In particular, it highlights inconsistencies in the extent to which different countries are committed to the APTERR, a fundamental issue given that one of the scheme’s objectives is to promote regional cooperation in the rice sector. Beyond questions of feasibility, this paper discusses whether a rice reserve that is public-sector driven and rice-focused is the right tool to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The paper concludes by reviewing the APTERR’s prospects for achieving the ambitious but necessary goals of building confidence and stability in the international rice market.