Asia and Eurasia
Food and Energy Challenges in Asia

There couldn’t have been a better place than Russia to discuss about the food and energy challenges that Asia in particular and the Global South in general face today. This article was prepared for the Valdai Club’s 13th Asian Conference.

Russia literally is the granary of Asia; and Russia is the powerhouse of the world. In Asia, country after country depends heavily on imports of food stocks like wheat, corn, maize and edible oil on the Black Sea region, one of the six food baskets of the world.

Major Black Sea region countries produce 12 per cent of all food calories traded globally; control 29 per cent of global wheat exports, 19 per cent of maize exports, and a whopping 78 per cent of sunflower oil exports.

It might not be an exaggeration to say that more than a billion stomachs in Asia and Africa go hungry without food supplies from Russia and a couple of other countries in the region.
India, the largest country in the Global South, has been able to achieve self-sufficiency in food production over decades of meticulous planning. Yet, it too depends on imports from the Black Sea region for fertilisers and edible oils.

Situation in other countries in Asia is different. Countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia, with massive populations to feed, have heavy dependence on Russia for food-grains. For example, almost 55% of Bangladesh’s wheat imports happen from Russia and surroundings.
Additionally, in recent decades, Asia witnessed a process called “meatification”. Per capita meat consumption has jumped five-fold in Asia in the last four decades. Countries like India, China and Indonesia have become major exporters of animal husbandry, poultry and fishery. All the above meat production industry requires feed, the main components of which, like corn and soybean, come from the Russian region.

In the last few years, pandemics and geo-political factors have triggered a major food crisis. This crisis, dubbed the worst the world has seen since World War II, is severely impacting low-income countries and communities in Global South. Some 50 countries depend on Russia for their food supply, particularly for wheat, maize and sunflower oils. Majority of these are poor and import-dependent countries in Asia and Africa.

Maximo Torero Cullen, chief economist of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), wrote that “One of every five calories people eat has crossed at least one international border”.

This crisis is leading to two scenarios – one, countries turning to self-reliance or looking for alternative sources of food; two, emergence of new supply lines.

Return to traditional food practices, like millets in India’s case, is one new development. The UNGA has adopted the India-sponsored resolution declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets. Yet, availability and production of millets is a far cry for many countries.

Certain alternative sources of food imports are emerging, like Australia and Canada for corn, and France and the US for wheat. 

However, supply chain disruptions caused in the last few years meant shortages of fertilisers and pesticides even in these countries and the consequent shortage of production and corresponding rise in costs.

Asia and Eurasia
Russia – Asia Relations: The Emerging International Order
Nivedita Das Kundu
Russia-Asia relations are considered one of the highest priorities in Russian foreign policy. Russia’s pivot to Asia entails a wider regional policy involving key Asian states, writes Nivedita Das Kundu, Senior Researcher at York University, Academic Director at Liaison College. This article was prepared for the Valdai Club’s 13th Asian Conference.

Future of Energy and Food Markets

What applies to food security also applies to energy security. Acute shortages in energy supplies are leading to severe stress on the countries in Global South – in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

A worrying trend is the reopening of coal-fired and nuclear power plants in some of the Western European nations to meet domestic energy demands. It is no secret that the ecological costs of such actions will be borne by the developing world in Asia and elsewhere.

India is focussed on adhering to the four As of Energy Security: Availability; Applicability; Acceptability and Affordability.

India emphasises on cleaner alternatives like natural gas and renewables for its energy needs. It wishes to increase the share of gas in energy consumption to 15% by 2030.
India ranks 4th in the world in terms of installed renewable energy capacity and India's non-fossil fuel energy has grown by over 25% in the previous 7 years. We have a target of having 450 Gigawatt (GW) of installed renewable energy capacity by 2030 – about 280 GW (over 60%) is expected from solar.

The leadership in India and most part of Asia now talks about ensuring energy justice and food justice – meaning, a practice of ensuring greater per capita availability of energy and food while ensuring smaller per capita carbon footprint.

It must be noted that food sector consumes over 30% of the world’s total energy. For example, almost 20% of the GHG emissions in Low GDP countries in Asia are from domestic cooking and food sector.

With the demand for food production growing, it is important to look for cleaner energy alternatives for global food production too like natural gas.

The great challenge the world now faces is to develop global food systems that emit fewer GHG emissions, enjoy a secure energy supply and can respond to fluctuating energy prices while at the same time support food security and sustainable development. 

India – Russia Cooperation

The energy partnership between Asia and Russia goes a long way. Russia is a major energy provider for most of Asia. 

Asia is at the intersection of two important regions – the Indo-Pacific region and the Eurasian region. India is an active partner in both the regions for ensuring peaceful and sustainable development. 

In order to strengthen regional cooperation in Eurasia and address the logistical challenges, President Putin of Russia and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India have announced creation of a North-South Energy Corridor, connecting the Urals with the Indian Ocean through Central Asia and Iran.

This energy bridge will be critical to India’s and Asia’s future food and energy needs.
Last word: It must be appreciated that climate challenges, pandemics, supply chain disruptions and military conflicts are not the creation of the Global South, yet the countries in Global South – in Asia and Africa - have been the major victims of them.
Asia and Eurasia
Eurasian Connectivity for Mutually Beneficial Trade and Socio-Economic Development
Raza Muhammad
One can see heightened global competition, gradual de-globalisation, hedging of market economy, denial of technology, rise of state and nationalism. The word appears to be moving back to the era of bloc politics, writes Ambassador Raza Muhammad, President of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute. This article was prepared for the Valdai Club’s 13th Asian Conference.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.