Next Article in Journal
Combining Green Metrics and Digital Twins for Sustainability Planning and Governance of Smart Buildings and Cities
Next Article in Special Issue
Sustainable Development of Cassava Value Chain through the Promotion of Locally Sourced Chips
Previous Article in Journal
Development of an Innovative Attachment Determining Friction Parameters for Quality Assessment in Sustainable Processing
Previous Article in Special Issue
Shared Logistic Service for Resilient Agri-Food System: Study of E-Commerce for Local and B2B Markets in Japan
 
 
Font Type:
Arial Georgia Verdana
Font Size:
Aa Aa Aa
Line Spacing:
Column Width:
Background:
Article

Impacts of COVID-19 on Sustainable Agriculture Value Chain Development in Thailand and ASEAN

1
Center of Excellence in Econometrics, Faculty of Economics, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
2
College of Management, Mahidol University, Bangkok 10400, Thailand
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2022, 14(20), 12985; https://doi.org/10.3390/su142012985
Submission received: 26 July 2022 / Revised: 24 September 2022 / Accepted: 30 September 2022 / Published: 11 October 2022

Abstract

:
The unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have put human and food security at risk. Currently, the literature on its impacts and implications on the agricultural sector towards United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) is limited. This study aims to expand the existing knowledge by assessing COVID-19 impacts on sustainable agriculture value chain development in a major global hub of food supplies, Southeast Asia, particularly in the context of regional cooperation for the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN). This study employs an empirical qualitative research design to collect primary data from 31 in-depth key-informant interviews with multilateral stakeholders. We also reviewed the latest literature for the secondary data to advance our limited knowledge in this realm. Our study provides a macro-analytical outlook of COVID-19 impacts on the agricultural sector for sustainable development in Thailand and ASEAN, using a SWOT analysis and sustainability framework (i.e., socio-economic and environmental dimensions) with SDGs mapping. Our findings address critical sustainability issues about agriculture and food value chains for food security and post-COVID-19 recovery. Our study also suggests various opportunities and policy recommendations for transformative regional sustainability strategies for sustainable agriculture to achieve the UN SDGs and a sustainable future.

1. Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted all walks of life. Governments have established stringent measures to help reduce the outbreak and minimize various socio-economic activities, such as restricting cross-border movement, limiting international travel, and enacting social distancing and lockdowns. These measures have adversely affected the worldwide agricultural sector, encompassing agricultural food production, transportation/logistics, labor recruitment, and consumption. Since the agricultural sector is indeed an essential socio-economic backbone of many nations and regions, the unprecedented challenges from COVID-19 have put human and food security at risk. Studies on its impacts and implications on the agricultural sector for sustainable development remain limited. In particular, the adverse effects at the regional level, such as in Southeast Asia or the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), have not been investigated, even though the ASEAN region is considered one of the central global hubs of food supplies.
Furthermore, the ASEAN Community emphasizes progression toward sustainable development, intending to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). It seeks to strengthen the harmony between the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. The ASEAN Community Vision 2025 focuses on five pillars for sustainable development. They are (1) poverty eradication, (2) infrastructure and connectivity, (3) sustainable management of natural resources, (4) sustainable consumption and production, and (5) resilience [1]. These pillars are consistent with the UN SDGs for sustainable development.
However, like other parts of the world, the ASEAN region has been threatened by COVID-19, and many activities were stalled. As of 26 September 2021, more than 11,885,441 cases were confirmed, with more than 258,528 deaths in the ASEAN Community [2]. Thus, their progression towards the UN SDGs has been hit hard by COVID-19. The pandemic has negatively affected global agriculture, food supply chains, and exports/imports to various extents. To expand the limited knowledge on the impacts of COVID-19 on the agricultural sector, this study aims to identify common problems, challenges, and opportunities affecting this backbone sector in Thailand and other countries in the ASEAN region. Our research questions are as follows: (1) How has the COVID-19 crisis affected the economic and social growth of the agricultural sector in Thailand and other ASEAN countries? (2) What should be done as the recovery responses? Moreover, what are the directions and solutions for policy implications on the agricultural sector in Thailand and other countries in the ASEAN region for further cooperation and alliance in the ASEAN Community?

2. Literature Review

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been ratified by 193 of the United Nations’ member states since September 2015. The agenda includes a list of objectives known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are made up of 17 goals and 169 targets [3]. These goals and targets focus on three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental. The 2030 Agenda seeks to improve the world for coming generations by eradicating poverty, reducing inequality, separating economic progress from environmental damage, addressing climate change and its effects, and more. Most goals and targets indicate the aspirations to ensure that those who have been left behind in development would benefit from this agenda. The SDGs are thus a universal set of goals for all countries, from the least developed, the developing, to the most developed countries.
The 2030 Agenda is vital to Thailand and ASEAN in several ways. First, as with the UN member states since 2015, Thailand and other ASEAN member states are committed to achieving the SDGs by 2030. Second, Thailand and other ASEAN member states ought to participate in the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda, particularly the least developed and emerging nations in this region, such as Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, and Vietnam, where the Global Goals have come to represent a common development standard for allocating Official Development Assistance and other forms of financing. Third, there will be more opportunities for future regional and international partnerships if the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the 2030 Agenda were aligned. Lastly, the SDGs can be a systematic framework for reviewing the progress towards sustainable development.
However, the 2030 Agenda and Vision 2025 were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which started in China in late 2019 and became a global pandemic in March 2020 [2]. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the health and socio-economy globally, regionally, and domestically [4]. How can countries such as Thailand and other ASEAN member states deal with the impacts? Specifically, how can they design and implement policies that align the regional (e.g., Vision 2025) with the global (e.g., 2030 Agenda) sustainability policies, despite the COVID-19 pandemic?
Due to the economic consequences of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, economic recession was triggered in many nations ([5,6]). The pandemic deeply affected many sectors, particularly agriculture, which is an essential part of ASEAN as it contributed 12.8% of the GDP in 2005, 12.0% in 2010, 11.1% in 2015, and 10.3% in 2018 [7]. Although agriculture’s contribution to the overall GDP of the ASEAN region has decreased, it remains crucial to the whole economy of ASEAN member states, especially for food security. Indeed, the agricultural sector represents the social backbone of most ASEAN populations, providing employment for 71.7% of the population in Laos (71.7%), 54.9% in Cambodia, 48.8% in Myanmar, 41.9% in Vietnam, 35.8% in Thailand, 30.5% in Indonesia, and 28.3% in the Philippines [7]. Moreover, the agricultural sector has created significant value for the agricultural industry and is an essential driver for economic growth and alleviating poverty in many nations in ASEAN.
The agricultural sector plays a significant role in the Thai economy and society, employing more than 30% of its labor force in 2019 [4]. In 2019, the value of the agriculture sector accounted for TBH 174 billion, contributing to 6.22% of its GDP [7]. Over the years, the Thai agricultural sector has undergone structural changes by reducing the use of the labor force and replacing it with the use of modern machinery and technology. The growth pattern of the Thai agricultural sector has therefore transformed from the previous emphasis on quantitative expansion, such as expanding plantations, to focus more on increasing the quality or productivity production factors. The essential agricultural products in Thailand are rice, rubber, cassava rice, chicken, fruit, shrimp, processed food, etc. The top-three agricultural products with the highest export value are rice, rubber, and cassava. Their export values in 2019 were TBH 130,584.05, 128,490.41, and 80,972.26 million, respectively, which accounted for 19.34, 19.03, and 11.99 percent of the total value of exports of all agricultural products [8].
There is a dearth of studies on the impact of COVID-19 pandemics on the economy, particularly in the agricultural sector. It severely affected the food supply chain. Food demand was impacted, which caused challenges to food security. As a result, the most vulnerable populations were particularly affected, as identified by Siche (2020), who found sufficient data to support this claim [9]. OECD (2020) reported that the COVID-19 pandemic affected agricultural production and incomes due to the limitation of cross-border mobility and the governmental lockdown policy in the region [10]. The policy implementation led to a labor shortage in the agricultural sector of many countries ([11,12,13,14]). In addition, COVID-19 pandemic control measures delayed and interrupted transport and logistics services. The border closures and further procedures and investigations created congestion and delays, affecting the transport of perishable products [10,15].
The declaration of export restrictions and more sanitary requirements in several countries restricted the global agri-food trade and market access. The COVID-19 outbreak has had a broader impact, resulting in a continued decline in agricultural products [14,16,17]). Food products have become expensive because of transport restrictions and steadily declining agricultural products [13]. In addition, the COVID-19 epidemic could affect the availability of important intermediate inputs for farmers. In 2020 and 2021, crop yields were impacted by low input levels and/or high input costs, particularly in developing nations [18].
The spread of COVID-19 has also disrupted the operations of all food supply chains, with the labor shortage being a main concern. The food industry is susceptible to the detrimental effects of COVID-19’s spread on its workforce (such as sick workers and those placed in isolation and quarantine). The health and safety precautions, furthermore, incur additional production and distribution costs. Kim et al. (2020) indicated that food availability and accessibility have decreased as a result of disruptions to the domestic and global food supply systems [19]. On the supply side, operations in the processing, transportation, logistics, and trading sectors have all been delayed because of restricted mobility, the state quarantine policy, closure of processing facilities, and worker illnesses from COVID-19 infection during planting, farming, and harvesting. On the demand side, losses of employment and disposable income from the pandemic crisis also reduce household food consumption, leaving vulnerable groups at risk of hunger and malnutrition.
Gregorio and Ancog (2020) highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic creates supply and demand shocks, affecting all economic sectors, including agriculture [20]. Because of the community lockdowns, workforce immobility and restrictions reduce farm labor, indirectly reducing the agricultural output. The COVID-19 pandemic harms the CLMV economies through their dependency on foreign direct investments and revenues generated from tourism and exports. Despite the virus outbreak, ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) have put forward the essential requirements for safe and nutritious food production and food security and highlighted the importance of the agriculture and forestry sectors in the ASEAN market.
The Office of Agricultural Economics (2020) stated that the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted the agricultural sector in Thailand. The value of agricultural exports declined by 9.37 percent in the first quarter of 2020. The pandemic adversely affected many agricultural products, such as cassava and its related products, fruits (e.g., longan and durian), shrimp, and other fishery products. The COVID-19 outbreak also affected food consumption behavior and caused lower demands for agricultural products, such as beef, pork, grain, and sugar. Moreover, as in other countries, government measures (i.e., limitation of cross-border human mobility and lockdowns) resulted in agriculture labor shortages and reduced production and supply-chain distribution.
Therefore, this study explores the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the agricultural sectors of Thailand and ASEAN, where the economic sector is an important component of GDP under the Sustainable Development Policy concept. Focusing on the problems that occurred together, the impact on production, labor, marketing, challenges, and opportunities from the COVID-19 crisis are analyzed from a macro perspective. It also includes the results and impacts of policy implementation on stakeholders involved in the supply chain to mitigate and restore Thailand’s agricultural sector. Finally, it presents Thailand’s model and proposes recovery guidelines for the agricultural sector from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to attain sustainable futures.

3. Research Methodology

To address this study’s aim and its research questions, an empirical qualitative research methodology was adopted. Figure 1 illustrates a graphical summary of the scope and methodology used in this study. It started by identifying the problems and threats of COVID-19 affecting the ASEAN agricultural sector, particularly employment, production, and marketing. Primary and secondary data were collected from in-depth interviews, reviews of relevant literature, publicly available documents, and information associated with the COVID-19 crisis, the ASEAN Community, and other related sustainability/sustainability knowledge. The primary data were gathered from in-depth interviews with several stakeholders in the agricultural sector who are involved in the upstream to downstream supply chains.
To gather insightful perspectives and a deeper understanding of the situations and contexts, 35 in-depth interviews with different key opinion leaders and influential stakeholders from government and private sectors or institutes, expert reviews/comments, and focus groups with different parties in the supply chains were conducted for the primary data. A total of 13 organizations/institutions related to the topic were represented by all interviewers/informants (such as the Office of Agricultural Economics, Rice Department, Thai Agriculturist Association, Thai Rice Exporters Association, Thai Rice Packers Association, Thai Tapioca Starch Association, Thai Rubber Association, cooperatives, representative from wholesale and retail markets).
Notably, the research methods were instrumental in providing an insightful analysis at the macro and policy levels. SWOT analysis and the generic foresight process framework were devised as the tools that identify specific strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats from the current situation and link them with sustainability policies and future collaboration and partnership to achieve the goals of sustainable agriculture, industrialization, balance, and resilience.

3.1. Population and Sample

The data were collected in various ways, such as (1) primary data from in-depth interviews from stakeholders, and (2) secondary information from various documents, publicly available information, websites, and other related documents. In particular, primary data collection was conducted from informants who played a role in policy-making or high-level influencers and other stakeholders from relevant and reputable public and private organizations/institutions, involved with the agricultural sector. Thus, the population and sample of this study represent diverse stakeholders in the agricultural supply chains in Thailand, as illustrated in Figure 2.
Figure 2 depicts the general supply chain of the Thai agricultural system, consisting of the upstream, midstream, and downstream. The main activity in the upstream concentrates on cultivation, involving many key players such as farmers, input sellers, and agricultural workers. The main activities in the medium stream of the supply chain are the collection of agricultural products, transportation, and distribution, and the processing ranging from simple agricultural processing to agro-industrial processing. Therefore, the essential stakeholders in the middle stream of the supply chain include multiple players (i.e., local collectors, middlemen, local and sizeable agricultural product processors, wholesalers, retailers, exporters, traders, and domestic and international service and logistic providers). The downstream activity in the supply chain involves the domestic consumption, importing, and distribution of agriculture and food products to overseas consumers. The red arrows indicate the flow of agricultural goods from upstream (producers) through food processing and delivery to downstream (consumers). At the same time, a portion of agricultural products in fresh agricultural products is directly sent to consumers without the processing of local entrepreneurs and the agriculture industry, indicated with a black arrow.

3.2. Data Collection

A qualitative study was conducted to gather relevant literature, documents, and information about the COVID-19 crisis, ASEAN and other related sustainable development/sustainability knowledge, as well as primary data from multi-lateral stakeholders. The qualitative research method was employed in this research project since it was an appropriate way to provide insights into specific industries and sectors [21]. The in-depth interviews through a semi-structured interview guide were applied. A semi-structured interview technique was adopted to ensure that the research questions were addressed. All questions were open-ended questions with probing techniques. Following the Ethical Standard of Mahidol University, all key informants voluntarily participated in the research, with their consent granted. Participants were assured of their anonymity and confidentiality.

3.3. Research Scope

For the research scope, this study examined the COVID-19 effects on the agriculture sector and its supply chain through an in-depth interview with the relevant stakeholders from upstream to downstream of the supply chains. Key informants were identified by first selecting the prioritized agriculture products with the highest economic contribution to GDP growth. The selected top agricultural products in the supply chains included rice for this study as it is the government-targeted economic crop in Thailand with the highest value for production and exports. Moreover, an assessment was used for a comparative study with other nations in ASEAN (in comparison with Cambodia and Vietnam).
-
Upstream: Thai Agriculturist Association, Agricultural Cooperative;
-
Midstream: Thai Rice Millers Association;
-
Downstream: Thai Rice Exporters Association, Thai Rice Packers Association.
In sum, a total of 31 informants from 15 organizations/institutes, who were experts and the associated stakeholders with the agricultural supply chain, were interviewed to gain an understanding and insights into the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and sustainable development in the agricultural sector.

4. Analysis of Impact of COVID-19 on Agricultural Sector

4.1. ASEAN Agriculture Background

All ASEAN member countries are in the tropical zone, near the equator, making this region suitable for agricultural cultivation. Therefore, the agriculture sector is an important priority in growing the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The significance of the agricultural sector is evident in the following ways. First, the agricultural sector promotes sustained economic growth, creates employment, and supports the growth of decent work and small entrepreneurial enterprises, linking to SDG 8. Secondly, this sector involves the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) pillar, and it is associated with supporting poverty eradication (SDG 1), promoting food security and safety (SDG 2), and ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12). Thirdly, it is partially related to the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) on maritime security, conservation, and sustainable utilization of the oceans, seas, and marine resources (SDG 14).
Since ASEAN member countries are geographically suitable for cultivation, agriculture is the main socio-economic backbone of many countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, except Brunei Darussalam, and Singapore because of their land-size limitation. Figure 3a displays GDP based on agriculture by country in ASEAN in 2018. The top five countries with the highest GDP values are Indonesia (USD 129,983 M), Vietnam (USD 34,469 M), Thailand (USD 30,812 M), the Philippines (USD 26,654 M), and Malaysia (USD 26,164 M), respectively. Figure 3b presents the top five countries with the highest share of agricultural GDP, namely Myanmar (24.6%), Cambodia (16.3%), Laos (14.5%), Vietnam (14.3%), and Indonesia (12.5%) [1].
Table 1 presents the ASEAN (excluding Brunei Darussalam) strengths and challenges of food security by country in 2019, as reported by the Global Food Security Index 2019. The common strengths of each country in ASEAN are food loss and food safety, changes in average food costs, volatility of agricultural production, and urban absorption capacity. On the other hand, the ASEAN challenges in this sector are centered on limited public expenditure on agricultural R&D, gross domestic product per capita, protein quality, dietary diversity, and agricultural infrastructure.
As summarized in Table 2, the common obstacles faced by ASEAN member states are food loss and food safety, changes in average food costs, volatility of agricultural production, and urban absorption capacity. Furthermore, the ASEAN challenges in this sector are centered on limited public expenditure on agricultural R&D, gross domestic product per capita, protein quality, dietary diversity, and agricultural infrastructure.
One similarity among ASEAN members is the location advantage, suitable for high-yield agricultural cultivation. The ASEAN region is considered an important agricultural commodity hub of the world. In general, each ASEAN member state has a high level of GDP from agricultural exports, as shown in Table 3.

4.2. Impact of COVID-19 on ASEAN Agriculture and SDG Mapping

4.2.1. Economic Dimension

As in other parts of the world, ASEAN suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic. The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the ASEAN region on 13 January 2020, when a woman from Wuhan tested positive in Thailand. Consequently, every country in ASEAN immediately responded to this pandemic. Each government in ASEAN launched and implemented different measures to prevent the spread and infection of COVID-19. Most preventative measures were lockdowns to varying degrees (i.e., throughout the country or only in a specific region/province/district) and the closing of land borders including the suspension of commercial international flights.
For example, the Singaporean government announced the “Circuit Breaker,” a stringent set of preventative measures [22]. The Thai government declared a state of emergency and a curfew. All commercial international flights were halted, and various degrees of lockdown were put into place across the nation [21]. Malaysia announced a nationwide “Movement Control Order” (MCO), limiting foreign travel, gatherings, and movement, as well as forcing the closure of businesses, industries, governments, and educational institutions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing. In essence, it restricted individuals from traveling to other states. Indonesia applied “large-scale social restrictions” for some regencies and cities. Local governments implemented the restrictions with the approval of the Ministry of Health. The restrictions included limiting access to and movement from the restricted areas, closing public spaces, and constricting public transportation [23]. The Philippines issued Proclamation No. 929, declaring a state of calamity. The country announced nationwide lockdowns, known as “community quarantines” [24]. The government of Lao also announced a lockdown, leading to border closures and the suspension of all commercial international flights [25]. The Bruneian government barred all citizens and foreign residents from mass gatherings (e.g., weddings and sporting events) and announced a one-week nationwide shutdown of all mosques [26]. Cambodia announced a ban on entries from some countries. The government also forbade all religious gatherings and performances and ordered the extended closure of bars, karaoke venues, and theaters. In addition, the government suspended all border crossings [27]. Similarly, Myanmar launched a community lockdown, closed all schools, and suspended the entry of foreigners at its border gates [28]. Likewise, the Vietnamese government suspended the entry of all foreigners and ordered nationwide isolation [29].
The governmental declarations of curfew, lockdowns, and movement control measures as well as the announcement from the private sector (i.e., closed offices/stores and work-from-home policy) had a direct impact on many economic activities, namely the production of goods and services, household consumption, private business and commerce, along with transportation and logistics. The COVID-19 pandemic directly impacted the agricultural sector, particularly the agricultural logistics system and the food system, which had an adverse impact on food security achievement and sustainable economic growth.
The outbreaks of COVID-19 have severely affected exports of agricultural products and diverse trading partners to various extents. For example, agricultural trading and exporting to China, a major export market of many ASEAN member states, was suspended owing to the high number of infected patients in China and the cancellation of the Chinese New Year celebrations [8]. Multiple city shutdowns, business suspensions, in-house quarantines, and border trade suspensions in many countries in ASEAN also adversely impacted the agricultural export sector and the food supply chain system, from trading to transportation, of all international agricultural products. Consequently, the agricultural export values have significantly decreased. The prolonged COVID-19 pandemic has led many countries to be more concerned with the self-reliance of their food security. For example, the Vietnamese and Cambodian governments were highly concerned about food security in their countries, so they banned their rice exports [30]. As a result, Thailand’s rise exportation increased in quantity and value.

4.2.2. Environmental Dimension

Though there are no clear measures of the impacts of COVID-19 on the environmental dimension in the agricultural sector, it was evident that COVID-19 affected the food supply chain. Social distancing, work-from-home policies, and the growth of food delivery platforms (e.g., Grab Food, Food Panda, and others) have become widespread in ASEAN member states, resulting in a dramatic increase in the use of plastics. Many ASEAN member states have faced more plastic waste, further accentuating the environmental waste issue. Liu, Bunditsakulchai and Zhuo [31], Praveena and Aris [32], and Suriyankietkaew and Nimsai [16] confirmed that during the COVID-19, the shift to food delivery services accelerated an increase in plastic food containers and plastic bags, calling for plastic waste management.

4.2.3. Social Dimension

Multiple measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in most countries had a direct effect on the social dimension. Some examples are temporary business shutdowns, travel period limitations, working from home, cross-border restrictions, border trade restrictions, and more. These measures directly impacted the employment numbers, particularly in the industrial and service sectors, but less in the agricultural sector.
Figure 4 shows the unemployment rate of five ASEAN member states—Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—in Q4/2019 and Q1 and Q2/2020. The unemployment rate in these countries gradually increased, particularly the Philippines in Q4/2020, which had an 8.7% unemployment increase, followed by Malaysia (4.8%), Singapore (2.86%), Vietnam (2.63%), and Thailand (1.86%). Because of the declining number of full-time and part-time jobs and the increasing unemployment in many industrial and service sectors, most of the labor force returned to their hometowns, working in the agricultural sector. If they were skilled agricultural workers, the move would lead to higher agricultural employment and productivity. On the other hand, unskilled agricultural workers had little chance to improve their situation and were burdened with their daily expenses.
The COVID-19 outbreak also impacted the overall macro-level economy and real GDP per capita. Figure 5 depicts the year-on-year growth rate of real GDP per capita, reflecting the decreasing real GDP growth rate in Q4/2020. The Philippines had the highest rate of decrease (8.26%), followed by Thailand (4.20%), Malaysia (3.45%), Singapore (2.40%), Indonesia (2.19%), and Brunei (1.43%). However, food and agricultural products were less affected since they are considered necessary basic consumable products. Nonetheless, the economic downturn has led to greater caution in consumer spending.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has badly affected incomes and poverty rates among families, thereby reducing the purchasing power and capacity for high-quality foods. The critical concern is its detrimental effect on infant and child growth and development.
Another direct effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is on household incomes. Sources of income in agricultural households are not only from agricultural work but also from other sources. The state lockdown measures and restrictions on travel between areas also affected agricultural workers, who usually commute to work. Since they could no longer commute, they earned less income, leading to a higher poverty level among agricultural workers.

4.2.4. COVID-19 Impacts on ASEAN Agriculture with UN SDG Mapping

This section provides a summary of COVID-19 impacts on ASEAN agriculture with UN SDG Mapping. The UN SDGs framework, based on the three sustainability pillars (i.e., economic, environmental, and social dimensions), is employed for analysis to investigate the COVID-19 effects on the agriculture sector. Each dimension’ Sal impacts are summarized in sequence.
  • Economic impacts:
The outbreaks of COVID-19 have severely affected the economic dimension, including a decrease in exports of agricultural products and value chain disruption, to various extents. It also links to regression of UN SDG 2 and 8 in particular. The prolonging COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the progression of UN SDG 2 due to stringent agricultural exports for the national protection for food security reasons. The pandemic has also brought the goal toward sustainable agriculture, SDG 8, to a halt.
  • Environmental impacts:
The COVID-19 pandemic has both positive and negative effects on the environment. So far, the impacts of COVID-19 on the environmental dimension in the agricultural sector have not yet been concretely measured. The disrupted transportation activities, particularly from international logistics, and reduction in economic activities in ASEAN could reduce the carbon emission, aerosols (AOD, PM10, PM2.5), and air pollutants (NO2, CO) for cleaner air, progressing toward SDG 13 for climate action. However, it has adversely affected the fresh food supply chains and waste. The growth of food-delivery platforms (e.g., Grab Food, Food Panda, and others) in the ASEAN countries has dramatically created an increased use of single-use plastics as well as increasing the use of plastic food containers and plastic bags in many countries. Another adverse impact came from bio-hazardous waste from the daily usage of single-use or discarded face masks and surgical masks. Therefore, the new normal consumer behaviors adversely affected the environment and accelerated the increase in the plastic waste in many countries alike, regressing toward SDG 15 for life on land. The adverse impacts also might regress our effort toward SDG 12 for responsible consumption and production.
  • Social impacts:
From a macro-economic perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has directly affected the high level of unemployment in many industrial and service sectors in ASEAN. Additionally, most of the laborers were forced to return to their hometowns and to the agricultural sector, resulting in an increase in unskilled agricultural workers with low productivity. The COVID-19 outbreak also impacted the overall macro-level economy and real GDP per capita. However, the food and agricultural products have been less affected since they are considered necessary basic consumable products. Nonetheless, the economic downturn has led to greater caution in consumer spending for healthy agricultural foods. The pandemic has badly affected incomes and poverty rates among families, thereby reducing the purchasing power and capacity for high-quality foods. The income gap widened between the rich and the poor, and inequality persists. The critical concern is the detrimental effect on infant and child growth and development. Overall, COVID-19 has immensely regressed our effort toward sustainable growth, particularly SDG 1 for no poverty, SDG 2 for zero hunger, SDG 3 for good health and well-being, SDG 8 for decent work and economic growth, and SDG 10 for reducing inequality.
In conclusion, Table 4 presents a summary table of the COVID-19 impacts with links to various SDGs.

4.3. SWOT Analysis

This section analyzes strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis) from COVID-19 impacts on the agricultural sector. The descriptive summary data are based on the analysis from numerous interviews with key informants, considering key stakeholders of the supply chains in the agricultural sector (i.e., farmers, agriculturalists, villages, associations, and governmental bodies), as addressed in the Research Methodology section.

4.3.1. Strengths

The agriculture and food products of Thailand are good-quality and safe products with a strong quality-control system.
Thai entrepreneurs are competitive and can invest both in the country and abroad.
The agricultural product processing industry uses modern, up-to-date technology.
Thai farmers have high abilities and agricultural skills.
Thai farmers and entrepreneurs have strong establishments in the private sector and partnerships with agriculture product associations for information exchange and problem-solving capabilities, such as the Thai Agriculturist Association, Rice Exporters Association, and Thai Rubber Association.
The government sector pays good attention to small-scale agricultural entrepreneurs.
Good cooperation exists between countries, (i.e., ASEAN member states) and international institutions (i.e., FAO).

4.3.2. Weaknesses

Labor shortage and high labor costs.
Small entrepreneurs are not yet strong, requiring more knowledge and understanding about business development, production and marketing, and proper technology utilization to achieve standardized outputs.
Systems for tracing the product origins are not yet available for all products, especially plants.
The cost of installing and deploying technology and innovation is high and burdensome for entrepreneurs.
Thai agricultural products are dependent on export markets and are subject to global demand fluctuation and unstable world market prices.

4.3.3. Opportunities

The COVID-19 pandemic changed consumers’ lifestyles and increased the demand for food safety and healthy agricultural food products. This coincides with the higher demand for agricultural and food products as the world population increases.
The concepts of the New Theory for agriculture based on the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy integrated agriculture, precision agriculture, and the BCG (bio-circular-green) economy are opportunities to raise productivity levels and change agricultural production structures and systems.
Technological advances, Internet systems, and “Big Data” are important opportunities for further development of Thai agricultural systems.
E-commerce and online food-delivery platforms enable consumers to gain more access to agricultural and food products, allowing direct contact with the original sources or producers.
The FAO publication “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020: Transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets” [33] provides timely advice for countries seeking to make the best of the situation at hand.

4.3.4. Threats

The mechanisms of international trade are increasingly complex.
There is a growing number of non-tariff restrictions and trade barriers, such as food safety and nutrition measures.
Climate change.
Delays in the recovery of the global food supply chain.
Delays in the recovery of the world economy.

4.4. Evidence and Applications Based on the Agriculture Sector from Thailand to ASEAN

4.4.1. Production

The COVID-19 outbreak has had no direct effects on agricultural production and yields. Much of the decline in agriculture production in 2020 was due to the severe drought and low rainfall. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a direct impact on agricultural demand. According to the data from Thailand’s Office of Agricultural Economics (2020), in Q1/2020, the average agricultural production index indicated a decrease from 148.4 in 2019 to 139.0, or a 6.3% decline. In Q2/2020, the average agricultural production index was only 104.3, compared to 109.5 from the same period last year, or a drop of 4.7%. The Agricultural Price Index of Q1/2020 decreased to 130.3 from 132.1 in the same period last year, or down 1.4%. The Q2/2020 agricultural production index increased from 126.2 in the same period last year to 137.3, representing an 8.9% increase. Details of a variety of agricultural products affected by COVID-19 are discussed next.
In Q1, COVID-19 affected the following agricultural products:
-
Cassava and its products:
A decrease in the exportation of cassava and its products owing to lower outputs and slow imports from China (Thailand’s main trading partner), due to limited logistics and transportation problems.
-
Longan:
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, products could not be shipped there. Many Chinese and Vietnamese importers and agents could not come to Thailand to negotiate purchases of fresh longans as usual.
In Q2, COVID-19 affected the following agricultural products:
-
Rice:
The price of rice increased because of an increasing demand for rice, both from the domestic consumption and stocking up for the self-quarantine periods, and from increasing export orders. Thailand’s rice exports increased in demand as Vietnam restricted rice exports. However, there were some negative consequences based on the demand and supply of the market.
-
Rubber:
Rubber prices dropped because of an increase in the supply from rubber production. The demand for raw rubber sheets from major trading partners also decreased because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the slowing global demand for automobiles and tires. In addition, the closure of the border checkpoints between Thailand and Malaysia resulted in delays in importing raw rubber materials.
-
Cassava and its products:
In the second quarter of 2020, the cassava price index fell compared with the same quarter of 2019 because of the slowdown in the export of Thai cassava to China, the main trading partner, due to the epidemic situation.

4.4.2. Agriculture Markets and Logistics

During the early COVID-19 outbreak, the strict governmental measures, such as the stringent curfew at night, vastly affected the transportation and logistics systems necessary for transporting agricultural products to the local and international markets. The fresh and perishable products (e.g., fresh vegetables, fruits, seafood, and others) were particularly impacted. The governmental measures forced farmers to adjust their vegetable harvesting production and transportation planning. Travel and social restrictions also hit farmers hard because they could not travel around to earn more income from alternative sources outside the harvest season. Shippers also faced difficulties transporting the perishable goods transported across provinces to ensure product freshness from farmers to wholesalers, markets, and consumers.
Other stringent measures, such as the closure of shopping malls and markets (except for supermarkets and takeaway restaurants), and cross-provincial and international travel suspension, directly impacted countless hotels and restaurants. These businesses are significantly linked to the demand for agricultural and food products. When these businesses were temporarily shut down, the demand for agricultural and food products significantly dropped. As a result, the direct demand for domestic agricultural products for consumption and the imports of agricultural and food products sharply declined.
Moreover, the cross-border agricultural exports and trading across all Thai borders were directly affected by the permanent and temporary closure of border checkpoints.
The COVID-19 pandemic also changed the international trade patterns and behavior since international buyers or traders were unable to enter Thailand to negotiate and to make trade contracts. Communication between local agricultural producers and international buyers was migrated online via Line or WeChat. Hence, the limitation on the international trade negotiations for exporting and importing agricultural products led to fewer purchasing contracts, which were low in size and value (from the interview).

4.4.3. Agricultural Labor

The COVID-19 pandemic did not significantly affect local agricultural labor/workers because they usually worked daily and comply with the social distancing policies. However, the affected groups were foreign agricultural workers and ethnic groups, especially for agricultural harvesting. Interviews with fruit farmers in Chiang Mai and Chanthaburi found that the impact of COVID- 19 caused migrant workers to return to their home country, and ethnic group workers could not leave their villages to find jobs during the harvest season. The evidence from the interviews indicates a severe shortage of agricultural labor/workers to help harvest fruit during the COVID-19 crisis.
The COVID-19 crisis has put 8.4 million workers in the tourism, industrial, and other service sectors at risk of being laid off. It is difficult for more than 500,000 graduates to find jobs, including Thai workers returning from overseas [18]. The interview findings indicate several important trends. For example, some of these workers moved back from the capital city and big cities to their hometowns to help their families to farm, alleviating, to a certain extent, the shortage of agricultural workers. If these workers have agricultural skills, it represents an opportunity to find a new generation of agricultural workers to support the sector. They can become an important labor force in supporting the development of the local economies, particularly in the agricultural sector. With their technology savviness, they can apply their knowledge to increase productivity and replace the outdated, labor-intensive skills of the elderly agricultural workers. On the other hand, if laborers do not have agricultural skills, these laborers will become a burden on agricultural households in the form of increased household expenses.

4.4.4. Households

Since COVID-19 led the government to implement stringent measures stalling a range of business activities and employment, urban and foreign workers were forced to move back to their homelands despite their difficult financial situation. With no income, they were unable to pay off their debts, worsening their financial situations. Moreover, the government’s curfew measures and work-from-home initiatives resulted in fewer buyers and lower purchasing power in general markets (both fresh markets and modern trade markets). In addition, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis over six months led to a great number of changes to consumers’ behavior. They turned to online platforms and food-delivery applications such as Grab Food, Food Panda, and Line Man. According to the Kasikorn Research Centre (2020), the number of food deliveries was expected to be 66–68 million, or a 78.0–84.0% increase, compared to the previous year [34].

4.4.5. Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Thai Agricultural Products: A Case Study of Rice

ASEAN is considered one of the rice capitals of the world. The people in ASEAN eat rice as their major staple food, and rice is the most cultivated crop in ASEAN, with a total yield of over 120 million tons. Hence, in these nations, the security of the rice supply has become synonymous with food security [35]. Approximately 105 million tons of rice are consumed within the region, and there is an excess of 15 million tons of milled rice, with the trade of 4–5 million tons of intra-ASEAN rice. The rest of the production is exported outside the region. Currently, the situation of the rice market in ASEAN is increasingly competitive. Many ASEAN member states produce rice for domestic consumption and are among the world’s top exporters. Although many countries grow large quantities of rice, it is not enough to meet domestic demand, calling for rice importation. Producers in ASEAN can be divided into three groups, as follows [36]:
  • High production and export: Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos.
  • Low production and high export: Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.
  • Insufficient rice production for consumption: Singapore, Philippines, and Malaysia.
The COVID-19 epidemic did not affect Thai rice yields or production. The major problems were droughts and agricultural water shortages in many areas. In the first quarter of 2021, the in-season rice yields decreased because of delayed rain and lower-than-normal rain, causing water shortages in some areas during the cultivation period. The off-season rice also decreased because the amount of water in reservoirs and the water in natural water sources was less than the previous year and insufficient for rice growth. Thus, rice growth was interrupted, rendering withered and underweight seeds. Additionally, some areas had diseases and insect infestations. In the second quarter, the out-of-season rice yields decreased due to the declining rice cultivation area from the previous year. The water amount in most reservoirs and natural sources also remained lower than the previous year.
Figure 6 shows the Thai rice supply chain, with 53% and 47% of the domestic market and export market, respectively. Although COVID-19 has not affected production, the country closure, lockdowns, and curfew measures led to a degree of panic among domestic consumers, and the expectation of rice exporters of a rise in international rice prices and volatility. Some consumers thus rushed to buy rice to hoard, causing bagged rice to be sold out in department stores. However, the Thai Rice Packers Association insisted that there would be no rice shortage in Thailand.
The fear of rice shortage and panic buying only lasted a short while. The pandemic did not cause the rise in the domestic price of bagged rice. Yet, the drought reduced the paddy supply. Because of the severe drought, the harvested output decreased by 1.5–2 million tons, thereby increasing the price of bagged rice since 2019 [37]. The average domestic rice consumption of Thai consumers including 20 million foreign tourists is 86 kg per person per year, or 7 kg per month. However, since the pandemic, tourist arrivals practically disappeared, affecting many industries related to tourism and restaurants. Therefore, the demand for rice in the country decreased accordingly [38].
Figure 7 shows the total Thai rice exports during Cambodia and Vietnam’s suspension of rice exports; the total rice export quantities increased from 400,134 tons in February to 643,878 tons in April, a rise of 60.95%.
Figure 8 demonstrates the increased prices of exported Hom Mali rice, parboiled rice, and 5% white rice from February to April from USD 1164.04 to USD 1231.04, from USD 428.24 to USD 484.06, and from USD 522.63 to USD 582.99, or increases of 5.75%, 5.60%, and 11.55%, respectively.
In international markets, due to the continuous appreciation of the Thai baht, the price of Thai rice is much higher than that of competing countries. In the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, many rice-producing and -exporting countries in Asia were highly concerned about food security and announced a temporary halt to exports. It started with China, the first country to halt exports, raising the concern that 120 million tons of Chinese rice stocks would collapse the world market. India, the No. 1 exporter in 2019, exporting 10–11 million tons, announced a shutdown and stopped exporting for three weeks, which badly affected the world rice market. Cambodia announced that it would not export any white rice except jasmine rice and high-quality rice for two months from 1 April 2020, onwards. Vietnam temporarily suspended the issuance of rice export licenses until 28 March 2020 to strengthen the country’s food security capabilities in response to both the epidemic and the drought. As a result, rice importers turned to buy more rice from Thailand, raising both export and domestic prices, such as white rice by 5%; export prices increased by USD 50 per ton from the previous month. The rice priced at USD 490 increased to USD 560, and domestic rice increased by TBH 16,500 per ton [38]. Although many countries’ shutdowns and export halts led to an increase in Thai rice exports and affected the amount of rice within the country, the Thai Rice Exporters Association and the Thai Rice Packers Association confirmed that the amount of domestic rice was sufficient for consumption.
Later, after Vietnam and Cambodia began to export rice again, the export value of Thai rice significantly dropped to 311,166 tons, a drop of 51.67% between April and June. Consequently, Thailand’s world ranking as a rice exporter went down from second to third. The pandemic slowed down the economies of all countries. Consumers had lower incomes and were cautions about product prices. Importing countries from America, Africa, and Asia, which were the major rice importers of Thailand, switched to buying rice from other countries, which sold rice at a cheaper price than Thailand. Some still bought rice from Thailand because of the good quality but changed the ordering practice and ordered less each time.

4.4.6. ASEAN and Rice as Food Security

Malaysia: During Q1/2020, the Malaysian government reassured people that Malaysia had sufficient rice stocks for consumption for two and a half months after the Vietnamese government suspended rice exports in early March 2020 [39]. Vietnam signed a new rice sales contract up to the end of March to ensure that it had enough rice for domestic consumption. Malaysia had 500,000 tons of rice stocks at the time, while domestic consumption was estimated at 200,000 tons per month [40]. BERNAS, the only rice importer in Malaysia, signed a contract to buy rice from Vietnam through May 2020, despite the high price of rice. Later, Malaysia may consider buying from other countries, such as Pakistan, India, Myanmar, and Thailand.
Philippines: On 8 March 2020, the Philippine Ministry of Agriculture confirmed that rice stocks and harvested rice yields would be sufficient for domestic consumption during the country shutdown [41]. However, as Vietnam, the Philippines’ No. 1 rice importer, temporarily suspended rice exports, the Philippine government was concerned that there might be a shortage of rice in the future. Thus, it decided to buy 300,000 tons of additional rice on a government-to-government basis (G-to-G) from rice-producing countries (members of ASEAN and non-ASEAN member states such as India and Pakistan) to increase its stock of rice. Later, in June 2020, the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) organized a bid for imports of 300,000 tons of G-to-G rice through a teleconference (Zoom) system, with four countries participating in the sale: Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, and India [42]. However, on 27 June, the Philippine Ministry of Trade and Industry said that PITC stopped importing G-to-G rice, as there was no need to import it after the Vietnamese government lifted the ban on rice exports in May 2020.
Vietnam: On 24 March 2020, the Vietnamese government temporarily suspended rice exports due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and drought and assigned relevant agencies to survey rice stock volumes and domestic rice demand [40]. Figure 9 displays the Vietnamese rice export volume and price between 2019 and 2020. Due to Vietnam’s rice export suspension policy, the total rice export volume in April 2020 was 510,197 tons, decreasing from April 2019, when it was 690,094 tons, representing a drop of 26.07%. Later, when the spread of the COVID-19 virus reduced, Vietnam resumed rice exports, creating more intense competition in the global rice market. In May 2020, Vietnam achieved a new high total rice export volume of 953,950 tons, a dramatic increase of 86.98% from April 2020 [43]. In addition, the rice export turnover in the first six months of 2020 was 3.5 million tons (an increase of 4.4%), accounting for a USD 1706.4 M increase from 2019, which was USD 1447.21 M, or 17.9%. The Vietnam Food Association reported that the country’s rice export prices have been continuously increasing since the middle of July 2020 and have even surpassed those of Thailand, one of the world’s leading rice exporters.
Cambodia: Cambodia is one of the rice-exporting countries in ASEAN. Its major markets are the European Union and China [44]. To maintain local food security during the pandemic, the government imposed a ban on the export of white rice and paddy rice. However, it allowed the export of fragrant rice until new rules were established for domestic supplies. Later, in May 2020, the Royal Government approved the resumption of white rice exports by contract orders from abroad, effective from 20 May. Then, in the five months of 2020 shown in Figure 10, Cambodia exported 397,660 tons, an increase of 41% compared to the same period in 2019, which totaled only 281,538 tons [35].
Myanmar: In January 2020, the amount of foreign rice exports dropped significantly by 83% due to the situation of COVID-19. Similarly, various epidemic-prevention measures had an impact on the import and export of goods [45].
Singapore: In January 2020, the government of Singapore sought cooperation from three major Singapore supermarket chains in order to increase the amount of rice imports from major rice exporters such as Thailand, Vietnam, India, Myanmar, and other small exporting countries. During this period, all three supermarkets were exempted from complying with the Rice Stockpile Scheme (RSS) requirement; additional rice that the government had requested for imports would be stored in a place provided by the government, and the government would be responsible for facility expenses [46].

5. Opportunities for Transformative Recovery and Regional Sustainability Strategies in Agriculture

5.1. Seeking New Opportunities to Strengthen Cooperation in the ASEAN Region’s Strategy in Agriculture

The findings from the SWOT analysis suggest that the ASEAN Community region needs to strengthen all weaknesses and mitigate the threats and challenges that may arise from the impacts and seek potential future opportunities. In fact, Thailand and many ASEAN countries share common strengths and challenges. Thus, there is a need for coordination in the implementation of ASEAN regional strategies to support sustainable growth within the region. In recent years, the ASEAN region, with the world’s fifth largest economy, has had geographical strategic advantages that are contiguous with many emerging economies. Additionally, ASEAN member states profit from the region’s expanding market potential, including more than 600 million local consumers, low labor costs, welcoming foreign investment policies, and expanding GDP. It also responded relatively quickly to the COVID-19 outbreak, with relatively low infections and deaths compared to other regions. As for the agricultural sector, because the ASEAN Community is geographically suitable for cultivation, the agricultural sector is the social and economic backbone of most ASEAN countries, namely Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, except Brunei Darussalam and Singapore due to land size restrictions. Many countries have similar agricultural produce and products. For example, Vietnam and Thailand are paddy producers and rice exporters while Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand are palm producers and exporters. Therefore, member states should jointly take this opportunity to strengthen the ASEAN Community as a major global food supplier of good quality instead of competing. The ASEAN Community is also known for its high-yield food security, and now is a good time for the ASEAN Community to take the opportunity to strengthen regional cooperation to promote and achieve its ASEAN Community Vision and UN SDG Agenda.

5.2. Promoting Strategies for Inter-ASEAN Trade Cooperation in the Agricultural Sector

Research evidence indicates that Thailand and other ASEAN countries play an important role as producers of diverse agricultural commodities in the global market. The region is also a prominent center for agricultural commodities in the global value chain (such as rice, rubber, and cassava). For the agricultural sector, evidence supports a growing intra-ASEAN trade in the agroindustry, i.e., animal feed industry, between Thailand and neighboring countries, such as Cambodia or Myanmar. ASEAN can work together to connect the agricultural food supply chains within the region as well as develop high-value food industries. ASEAN can recover and boost the agricultural economy through agricultural and food exports to the member states and other partnering countries by increasing intra-ASEAN trade and the implementation of different trade agreements such as ASEAN+3, ASEAN+6, and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This proposed strategy highlights the importance of strengthening economic cooperation and supply-chain connectivity, as addressed by the Minister of Industry and Trade, Viet Nam, Chairperson of ASEAN Economic Ministers and ASEAN Economic Community Council 2020, H.E. Tran Tuan Ahn emphasizes and elaborates more on the post-pandemic economic aspect of ASEAN. Notably, the cooperative intra-ASEAN trade strategy can forge future sustainable agriculture while enhancing food security and sustainable development and achieving the UN SDGs.

6. Policy Suggestions

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the worldwide concern for food security due to transportation limitations, border closures, closure of restaurants, and countries banning exports and imports, all of which have affected the food supply chain. All countries in ASEAN tried to turn the crisis from the COVID-19 outbreak into opportunities. They had to accelerate adaptation in all areas to make themselves resilient and able to cope with ever-changing future challenges. ASEAN should work hard to achieve the goals discussed below in alignment with ASEAN Vision 2025 and the SDG 2030 Agenda.

6.1. Build Common Agricultural Development within ASEAN

⏵ Existing ASEAN organizations work together to increase production efficiency, reduce production costs, and exchange and transfer technology between ASEAN member states, especially between agricultural technology-driven countries and those with a need to increase knowledge and skills in agricultural technology. The ASEAN ministers of agriculture and forestry, in order to ensure food security, food safety, and nutrition in ASEAN, promoted a statement of the actions that should be taken, as follows:
ASEAN should minimize disruptions in domestic and regional food supply chains by working closely together to ensure that markets are kept open. The transportation of food and agricultural products, including via air, sea, and land freight, should be facilitated to keep up the flow of agricultural and food products. Quarantine or other non-tariff measures should not impede or slow down the region’s free flow of agricultural and food products. In addition, critical infrastructure, such as our air and seaports, should remain open to support the viability and integrity of supply chains.
⏵ ASEAN should strive to reduce excessive price volatility, particularly price spikes, to ensure adequate emergency food and reserves, and to provide timely and accurate market information through the effective implementation of the ASEAN Food Security Information System (AFSIS) and ASEAN plus Three Rice Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR). With reference to the Statement of the Special ASEAN Plus Three (APT) Summit on Coronavirus Disease 2019 held on 14 April 2020, the APT leaders strongly recommended the utilization of APTERR to ensure food security in the region during an emergency caused by the catastrophic outbreak [33], and it must comply with the fundamental objectives of the establishment of APTERR to meet emergency requirements and achieve humanitarian purposes. Corresponding with specific distinctions of emergencies, there are three APTERR programs that can be used for addressing the emergency:
Tier 1 involves the release of earmarked emergency rice reserves under prearranged terms for anticipated emergencies;
Tier 2 involves the release of earmarked emergency rice reserves under other agreements for unanticipated emergencies not addressed by Tier 1;
Tier 3 involves the release of stockpiled emergency rice reserves under the contribution for severe emergencies and humanitarian responses, such as poverty alleviation and malnourishment eradication, to ensure food security in the region [29].
⏵ ASEAN should continue to implement the ASEAN Guidelines on Promoting Responsible Investment in Food, Agriculture and Forestry [8], adopted in October 2018 by ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF), to increase resilience and contribute to the mitigation and adaptation to climate change, natural disasters, and other shocks. The guidelines are designed to ensure that “investments in agriculture meet global standards and promote responsible and sustainable development”, which benefits and enhances the strength of agriculture and food systems.
⏵ As food safety and food security is a mega-trend caused by COVID-19, ASEAN should strengthen AMAF’s joint efforts in advocating, facilitating, and implementing the ASEAN Food Safety Policy (AFSP) and the ASEAN Food Safety Regulatory Framework (AFSRF) to provide direction to relevant ASEAN Sectorial Bodies and ASEAN Member States. This will reinforce the recognition of the importance of risk assessment in developing evidence-based food safety measures. Moreover, it will sustain nutrition security with other relevant sectors to maintain access and utilization of an adequate supply of nutrients. Hence, it will be able to achieve the goal of protecting the health of ASEAN consumers, ensuring fair practices in food trade and facilitating the free movement of safe food products in ASEAN.
⏵ Since accurate and timely information is a key factor in policy decision making, ASEAN should strengthen the role of the ASEAN Food Security Reserve Board (AFSRB) to promptly provide periodic exchanges of information on national food and agricultural policies and stocking policies, as well as production, consumption, and storage programs pertaining to basic food commodities among ASEAN member states. The main task would be to periodically evaluate the food situation and prospects in the ASEAN region, as well as worldwide, including trade, prices, quality, and stocks of basic food commodities (such as rice, maize and sugar), using the ASEAN Food Security Reserve Board as the focal point, as well as AFSIS and APTERR. Coordination with relevant Working Groups (food, crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry) under the Senior Officials Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (SOM AMAF) is considered vital to their work.
⏵ ASEAN can recover and boost the agricultural economy through agricultural and food exports to the member states and other plus partnering countries, both by increasing intra-ASEAN trade and the implementation of different trade agreements such as ASEAN+3, ASEAN+6, and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

6.2. Increase the Efficiency of Water and Watershed Management

⏵ The policy can be carried out by using existing ASEAN organizations to strengthen agricultural production efficiency and to build resilience in agricultural water management and flood prevention. The ASEAN Working Group on Water Resources Management (AWGWRM) is envisaged to be a consultative platform that will enable the ASEAN member states to promote the sustainability of water resources and to ensure equitable access and sufficient water quantity of an acceptable quality that can meet the needs of the people of ASEAN. The aim is to enhance regional cooperation on freshwater management under the ASCC Blueprint 2025.

6.3. People-Centered (Putting People First)

⏵ In the short run, each country should ensure that all agricultural activities, from farming to selling to consumers, can be carried out normally, with minimal interruption. A supporting policy should be introduced to help various agricultural SMEs survive the tough crisis and assist workers in keeping their jobs in the meantime. If the workers are laid off or need to take unpaid leave, sufficient social protection should be provided.
⏵ The food-chain activities should be continued as usual. In the case of difficulties with marketing and selling, governments should educate and encourage farmers to connect directly to consumers via online shopping platforms, online services, and social media platform. However, if the “new normal” farmers do not have good digital media literacy, the problem can be mitigated with the assistance of the younger generation in their families.
⏵ The government should consider interest-free or low-interest loans to aid farmers, breeders, agricultural SMEs, and other stakeholders in the agriculture and food supply chains since many have faced cash flow problems since the pandemic. Without a heavy interest burden, the loans may help sustain small farmers and SME entrepreneurs during and after the COVID-19 crisis and may help them recover from the impact of the crisis such as finance planting and harvesting in the next season. Financial aid can keep farmers producing and supporting their finances and household needs during difficult times.
⏵ During the COVID-19 crisis, farmers may lack adequate income from secondary sources, apart from their agricultural production. Therefore, the government should provide temporary cash and production subsidies to support their livelihood and well-being.
⏵ In the medium term, the agricultural sector remains the foundation of the grassroots development, as it is the economic and social backbone of many ASEAN member states. Therefore, good knowledge about finance and marketing is key. They should be educated and equipped with the ability to access the best prices. The agenda on people development, including people in the agriculture sector, should be promoted among the existing ASEAN organizations to lead to a more sustainable society.

6.4. Sustainable System

⏵ Developing sustainable agriculture is one of the ways that the government can revitalize the economy and help other sectors that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. To achieve sustainable agriculture, farmers should apply the New Theory of agriculture, underlying His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy [47]. It sets out agricultural management practices for small agricultural areas, which help manage land, forests, water, and people. The New Theory would build resilience against various crises and finally bring about food security. It is regarded as a self-reliance model for small farmers. The goal is to enable farmers to become self-sufficient and help them take care of their well-being, the environment, and consumers. It is an alternative approach that can help farmers survive all types of “economic weather” and move towards sustainable agriculture.

6.5. Resilience

⏵ The following policies should be considered for building resilience systems in the agricultural sector to enhance the ability to cope with shocks and challenges. Collaborative finance mechanisms within ASEAN should be created to provide opportunities for farmers to access inputs.
⏵ Dissemination of the New Theory of agriculture concept underlying the Sufficiency Economic Philosophy, as an alternative sustainable agriculture approach to relevant ASEAN members, should be promoted.
⏵ Promotion of the “Smart Farmer”, via the “people-centered approach” discussed above, should be implemented so that they are able to gain up-to-date knowledge about all aspects of agriculture, finance, and markets. “Smart farmers” can use new technology and systems to maximize their access to information and production.
⏵ Promotion of co-operatives, credit unions, microfinance, and village funds under the farmer care-taking management system should be in place. Additionally, the government should support financial or funding aids with an appropriate management system.
⏵ The government should take corrective measures to support the agricultural sector without distorting market mechanisms, such as “crop insurance”, annual rice insurance for retail (micro-insurance), maize insurance using the rainwater and drought index for retail (micro-insurance), and longan crop insurance [48] (micro-insurance).
⏵ Promotion of agriculture products via electronic devices or mobile phone applications should be encouraged. It could help “smart farmers” to learn more and gain access to various agricultural sector data, such as weather conditions, rainfall data, and agricultural product price information.
⏵ The government should promote diverse knowledge about agricultural land management to farmers. For example, knowledge about the use of tax measures to promote the conversion of vacant land, the best use of land for agriculture, the cultivation of fruit trees or other valuable trees to increase green spaces and incomes, and the cultivation of high-value trees to be used as a loan guarantee.
⏵ Building food security, creating shared information about food demand in various provinces, and local agricultural production should be supported because they could help enhance food security and reduce dependency on outsiders, such as middlemen, as income circulation through the province reduces the role of middlemen. This micro-level management policy could become the national strength and bring about resilience.
Remark: Crop insurance is a kind of insurance for damage or loss of crops. All types of disasters can be designated with specific protection, such as floods, droughts, storms, or hail, according to different regions and types of plants, and the damage that is caused [49].

6.6. Dynamic and Innovative Provision of Social Services and Health Care

⏵ Innovative production methods and food distribution systems—“farm to table”—and creative agricultural products for the “new normal” society should be supported. Fair pricing of agricultural products should be advocated, and the promotion of healthy food and consumers’ knowledge about nutrition and health should be strongly encouraged. Finally, the promotion of value-added agricultural products that apply creativity, technology use, and innovation, such as functional foods or herbal foods, should be fostered.

7. Discussion

Agriculture is another important sector in driving the Sustainable Development Goals and plays an important part in building a sustainable foundation in Southeast Asia. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed several profound challenges to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in Southeast Asia. The COVID-19 pandemic has hampered efforts on the UN 2030 Agenda and ASEAN Community Vision 2025. In particular, it adversely affected Southeast Asia’s agricultural sector or the socio-economic backbone. Overall, the pandemic has greatly impacted our sustainability efforts on progression toward achieving our UN SDGs. Our analysis reports the socio-economic and environmental impacts on sustainability as follows:
In terms of the economic impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively regressed UN SDG 2 and 8 in particular. The stringent agricultural exports for the national protection for food security reasons in many nations has negatively affected the progression toward our common goals for zero hunger due to the pandemic effects. The pandemic has also put the goal toward SDG 8 for sustainable agriculture at risk.
Moreover, the pandemic has also negatively affected our societal impacts. It has immensely regressed our effort toward sustainable agriculture from the logistical disruption of the global food supply chains, concerns for food security, and various unfavorable social dimensions toward the progression of UN SDGs, for instance, SDG 1 for no poverty, SDG 2 for zero hunger, SDG 3 for good health and well-being, SDG 8 for decent work and economic growth, and SDG 10 for reducing inequality.
Regarding the environmental impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic has two sides. Positively, the pandemic has helped us with cleaner air and less pollution. The disrupted and limited national and international transportation activities in the agricultural supply chains has helped us with the progression toward SDG 13 for climate action. Negatively, the pandemic has adversely affected the environment and new normal consumer behaviors with the increase in plastic waste and bio-hazardous waste (e.g., single-use surgical masks), regressing toward SDG 15 for life on land. Inevitably, the adverse impacts also might regress our effort toward SDG 12 for responsible consumption and production.
The study reveals that the New Theory for agriculture concepts, based on the Sufficiency Economic Philosophy, integrated agriculture, precision agriculture, and the BCG (bio-circular-green) economy, are opportunities to raise productivity levels and change agricultural production structures and systems. Next, promoting the “Smart Farmer” with the “people-centered approach” can be a pathway toward resilience. The “Smart Farmer” approach can help enhance human capability by up-skilling farmers. They can learn about new technologies and how to use new digital tools, mobile applications, and systems in order to help maximize their knowledge about product information and gain up-to-date knowledge about all aspects of agriculture, finance, and markets. Digital skills, literacy, and reskilling and up-skilling for farmers and agriculture and food entrepreneurs are needed to respond to the BCG model, which aligns with the Vision 2030 and ASEAN 2025 Agenda. For the post-COVID-19 crisis, we put forward the importance of further investments in sustainable agriculture and food systems by implementing relevant activities on ASEAN Good Agricultural Practices and Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices, building high-value food industries and developing strategies to promote the development of Public and Private Partnership (PPP). As a result, the agriculture sector can enjoy productivity improvement, respond to the promotion of the CSA, and strengthen the value chains for food safety, security, and quality in the long run. In conclusion, the ASEAN Agricultural New Normal should rely on safety, security, and sustainability.

8. Conclusions

In summary, the study indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic left negative outcomes on the agricultural sector. Both the supply and demand sides of the agricultural sector have been adversely affected. The pandemic directly impacted the agricultural sector on the supply side, ranging from the disrupted supply chains and interrupted logistic systems. On the demand side, the stringent measures, such as lockdown, closure of varied businesses (e.g., hotels, shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, and markets), plus travel restriction measures, caused unstable consumption demands with the irregularly higher demands from stockpiling during the early virus outbreak and lower general demands from the significant decreases in local consumer purchasing powers and losses of millions of inbound foreign tourists in many tourism destinations in ASEAN. Likewise, the cross-border agricultural exports and trading across borders were reduced due to the suspension of international transportation and the closure of certain permanent and temporary border checkpoints. The pandemic also created a shortage of agricultural laborers/workers, particularly migrant workers and ethnic group workers, in this sector. As a result, the harvesting activities were somewhat disrupted.
Therefore, we emphasize the importance of food security, food safety, and nutrition to strengthen food and human security. Moreover, it is important to alleviate disruptions of domestic and regional agricultural and food supply chains with jointed collaboration among the member states to keep the free flows of the agricultural and food products and its transportations and logistics. With a joint collaboration among the member states, the research highlights the importance of the implementation of ASEAN mechanisms, such as the ASEAN Food Security Information System (AFSIS), AFSRB, and APTERR, to reduce food security panic and excessive price volatility, ensure adequate emergency food and reserves, and provide timely and accurate market information. Effective food traceability and recall systems are essential to meet the Food Safety Emergency Response (FSER) plan.

Author Contributions

S.S. conceptualized the research project study; R.T. and S.N. participated in the literature review; R.T., S.N. and P.P. collected and analyzed data; K.P. participated in the writing—review and editing; R.T., S.N. and S.S. prepared and finalized the manuscript. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Funding

This research was supported by the ASEAN Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue (ACSDSD) and College of Management, Mahidol University.

Institutional Review Board Statement

The study was conducted according to the guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki, and approved by the Central Institutional Review Board of Mahidol University (protocol code MU-CIRB 2020/184.3107) and date of approval: 14 August 2020).

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the Editors and all reviewers for their valuable comments and intellectual advice for this paper. We also thank the research participants for their participation in the study. This research work was partially supported by College of Management, Mahidol University and Chiang Mai University.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Department of ASEAN Affairs. Complementarities Roadmap (2020–2025). Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand. 2020. Available online: https://asean.mfa.go.th/en/content/117008-complementarities-roadmap-(2020-%E2%80%93-2025)?cate=5f2063650b09246d9a00a7cf (accessed on 20 November 2020).
  2. WHO. WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard with Vaccination Data; World Health Organization: Geneva, Switzerland, 2021. Available online: https://covid19.who.int (accessed on 10 December 2020).
  3. United Nations. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 2015. Available online: https://sdgs.un.org/publications/transforming-our-world-2030-agenda-sustainable-development-17981 (accessed on 12 January 2021).
  4. Chantarat, S. How Will the Thai Agricultural Landscape Transform towards Sustainable Development? Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research: Bangkok, Thailand, 2020. [Google Scholar]
  5. Jackson, J.K.; Weiss, M.A.; Schwarzenberg, A.B.; Nelson, B.M.; Sutter, K.M.; Sutherland, M.D.B. Global Economic Effects of COVID-19; R46270; Congressional Research Service: Washington, DC, USA, 2020.
  6. Kanu, I.A. COVID-19 and the economy: An African perspective. J. Afr. Stud. Sustain. Dev. 2020, 3, 29–36. [Google Scholar]
  7. The ASEAN Secretariat. ASEAN KEY FIGURES 2019; ASEAN Secretariat: Jakarta, Indonesia, 2019. [Google Scholar]
  8. Department of International Trade Promotion, Ministry of Commerce, Thailand. China Trade Situation and Trade Opportunity Report; Department of International Trade Promotion, Ministry of Commerce: Bangkok, Thailand, 2021. [Google Scholar]
  9. Siche, R. What is the impact of COVID-19 disease on agriculture? Sci. Agropecu. 2020, 11, 3–6. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  10. OECD. OECD Scheme for the Application of International Standards for Fruit and Vegetables. In Preliminary Report: Evaluation of the Impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Fruit and Vegetables Trade; TAD/CA/FVS/WD: Paris, France; OECD: Paris, France, 2020. [Google Scholar]
  11. Trade Map. Export&Import Statistic. 2021. Available online: http://www.trademap.org (accessed on 20 July 2021).
  12. Aday, S.; Aday, M.S. Impact of COVID-19 on the food supply chain. Food Qual. Saf. 2020, 4, 167–180. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  13. World Bank. World Bank East Asia and Pacific Economic Update, April 2020: East Asia and Pacific in the Time of COVID-19; World Bank: Washington, DC, USA, 2020. [Google Scholar]
  14. Gong, B.; Zhang, S.; Yuan, L.; Chen, K.Z. A balance act: Minimizing economic loss while controlling novel coronavirus pneumonia. J. Chin. Gov. 2020, 5, 249–268. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [Green Version]
  15. Pulubuhu, D.A.T.; Unde, A.A.; Sumartias, S.; Sudarmo, S.; Seniwati, S. The Economic Impact of COVID-19 Outbreak on the Agriculture Sector. Int. J. Agric. Syst. 2020, 8, 57–63. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  16. Suriyankietkaew, S.; Nimsai, S. COVID-19 Impacts and Sustainability Strategies for Regional Recovery in Southeast Asia: Challenges and Opportunities. Sustainability 2020, 13, 8907. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  17. Miller, S.R.; Malone, T.; Schaefer, A.K. Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Michigan Agricultural Production Sectors; No. 1098-2020-812; Miscellaneous Publications: Jackson, MS, USA, 2020. [Google Scholar]
  18. Espitia, A.; Rocha, N.; Ruta, M. Covid-19 and food protectionism: The impact of the pandemic and export restrictions on world food markets. World Bank Policy Res. Work. Pap. 2020, 1, 9253. [Google Scholar]
  19. Kim, K.; Kim, S.; Park, C.Y. Food Security in Asia and the Pacific amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. © Asian Development Bank. 2020. Available online: http://hdl.handle.net/11540/12119 (accessed on 20 November 2020).
  20. Glenn, G.; Rico, A.; Rico, A. Assessing the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Agricultural Production in Southeast Asia: Toward Transformative Change in Agricultural Food Systems Assessing the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Agricultural Production in Southeast Asia: Toward Transformative Change in Agricultural Food Systems Commercialization and Mission Drift in Microfinance: Implications for Rural. Asian J. Agric. Development. 2020, 17, 1–14. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  21. Coronavirus-19 Disease Epidemic Situation Administration Center. Available online: https://www.moicovid.com/ (accessed on 25 November 2020).
  22. CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices. Singapore Migrant Workers Deal with Anxiety as Living Quarters Become COVID-19 Cluster. Available online: https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/singapore-s11-dorm-coronavirus-1.5539303 (accessed on 23 November 2020).
  23. CAN. Malaysia to Enter ‘Total Lockdown’ from June 1 to June 14 as Daily Number of COVID-19 Cases Hits New Record. Available online: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/malaysia-total-lockdown-jun-1-14-muhyiddin-covid-19-cases-record-1417801 (accessed on 25 November 2020).
  24. Philippines COVID-19 Response Plan. COVID-19 Humanitarian Response Plan Philippines. Available online: https://reliefweb.int/report/philippines/philippines-COVID-19-humanitarian-response-plan-final-progress-report-june-2021 (accessed on 25 September 2021).
  25. Xinhua. Lockdown Extended in Laos as COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise. Available online: http://www.news.cn/english/2021-09/30/c_1310220370.htm (accessed on 25 September 2021).
  26. The Star. Brunei Bars Residents from Leaving as Coronavirus Cases Reach 50 (Update). Available online: https://web.archive.org/web/20200317093728/https://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2020/03/15/brunei-bars-residents-from-leaving-as-coronavirus-cases-reach-50-update (accessed on 25 November 2020).
  27. Wikipedia. COVID-19 Pandemic in Cambodia. Available online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_in_Cambodia#cite_note-84 (accessed on 26 November 2020).
  28. Wikipedia. COVID-19 Pandemic in Myanmar. Available online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_in_Myanmar (accessed on 26 November 2020).
  29. Gardaworld. Vietnam: All Foreigners Temporarily Banned from Entering the Country March 22/update 17. Available online: https://www.garda.com/crisis24/news-alerts/325836/vietnam-all-foreigners-temporarily-banned-from-entering-the-country-march-22-update-17 (accessed on 26 November 2020).
  30. Department of International Trade Promotion, Ministry of Commerce, Thailand. Cambodia Introduced Measures to Ban the Export of White Rice and Paddy to Maintain the Country’s Food Security; Department of International Trade Promotion, Ministry of Commerce: Bangkok, Thailand, 2020. [Google Scholar]
  31. Liu, C.; Bunditsakulchai, P.; Zhuo, Q. Impact of COVID-19 on Food and Plastic Waste Generated by Consumers in Bangkok. Sustainability 2021, 13, 8988. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  32. Praveena, S.M.; Ahmad, Z. The impacts of COVID-19 on the environmental sustainability: A perspective from the Southeast Asian region. Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. 2021, 28, 63829–63836. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  33. FAO; IFAD; UNICEF; WFP; WHO. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020. In Transforming Food Systems for Affordable Healthy Diets; FAO: Rome, Italy, 2020. Available online: https://doi.org/10.4060/ca9692en (accessed on 25 September 2021). [CrossRef]
  34. Kasikornresearch. Food Delivery in 2022 Continues to Expand Application Service Provider Invades Upcountry Areas to Expand New Customer Base. Available online: https://www.kasikornresearch.com/th/analysis/k-econ/business/Pages/Food-Delivery-z3289.aspx (accessed on 8 December 2021).
  35. Siamwalla, A. Security of Rice Supplies in the ASEAN Region. In Food Security for Developing Countries; Routledge: London, UK, 2019; pp. 79–99. [Google Scholar]
  36. Department of International Trade Promotion, Ministry of Commerce, Thailand. Overview of the Rice Market in ASEAN; Department of International Trade Promotion, Ministry of Commerce: Bangkok, Thailand, 2021. [Google Scholar]
  37. Arunmas, P. Rice Packers: Prices to Climb for Months. Bangkokpost. 23 March 2020. Available online: https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/1884290/rice-packers-prices-to-climb-for-months (accessed on 26 November 2020).
  38. Prachachat. Covid Shakes the World Rice Market in 4 Countries, Slowing Down Sales of “Prices Go Up”. Available online: https://www.prachachat.net/economy/news-444449 (accessed on 26 November 2020).
  39. Reuters. Malaysia Has Rice Stocks for 2.5 Months as Vietnam Curbs Exports. Available online: https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-malaysia-food-idUSL4N2BK2K8 (accessed on 28 November 2020).
  40. Malaysiakini. Malaysia Has Rice Stock for 2.5 Months as Vietnam Curbs Exports. Available online: https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/517258 (accessed on 28 November 2020).
  41. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rapid Assessment of the Impact of COVID-19 on Food Supply Chains in the Philippines; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Rome, Italy, 2021; ISBN 978-92-5-133791-2. [Google Scholar]
  42. Department of Agriculture, Philippine. DA Welcomes DTI’s Decision to Drop PITC Rice Import Plan. Available online: https://www.da.gov.ph/da-welcomes-dtis-decision-to-drop-pitc-rice-import-plan/ (accessed on 30 November 2020).
  43. Reuters. Vietnam Jan-May Rice Exports up 12.2% y/y to 3.09 Monotones—Customs. Available online: https://www.reuters.com/article/vietnam-rice-idAFL4N2DO1LJ (accessed on 28 November 2020).
  44. Xinhua. Cambodia’s Rice Export to China up 23.6 pct. in Jan–May. Available online: https://english.news.cn/asiapacific/20220604/e389ec9b4b4544859df466f1095bdedc/c.html (accessed on 4 June 2022).
  45. Foreign Agriculture Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Burma—Rice Export Policy Updates during COVID-19; Foreign Agriculture Service, United States Department of Agriculture: Washington, DC, USA, 2020. [Google Scholar]
  46. Chainani, D.G.; Farn, C.S.; Gomez, C.D.; Han, D.; Ziyong, G.; Loh, J.; Justin, K.J. COVID-19 & the Little Red Dot–Important Lessons for Trade in Times of Global Pandemics based on Singapore’s Experience. Available online: https://policycommons.net/artifacts/2048522/covid-19-the-little-red-dot/2801613/ (accessed on 29 September 2021).
  47. Asean Information Center. Transition toward Thailand 4.0 through the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy. Available online: http://www.aseanthai.net/english/ewt_news.php?nid=1612&filename=index (accessed on 3 September 2020).
  48. Diaz-Caneja, M.B.; Conze, C.G.; Dittmann, C.; Pinilla, F.J.G.; Stroblmair, J. Agricultural Insurance Schemes; Office for Official Publications of the European Union: Luxembourg, 2020. [Google Scholar]
  49. WHO. WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard. Available online: https://covid19.who.int/WHO-COVID-19-global-data.csv (accessed on 29 September 2021).
Figure 1. Graphical summary of the research project scope and methodology. Source: leading author.
Figure 1. Graphical summary of the research project scope and methodology. Source: leading author.
Sustainability 14 12985 g001
Figure 2. General supply chain of the Thai agricultural system. Source: leading author.
Figure 2. General supply chain of the Thai agricultural system. Source: leading author.
Sustainability 14 12985 g002
Figure 3. (a) GDP Based on Agriculture at Current Prices in USD in ASEAN, 2015–2018 (million USD), (b) GDP Share of Agriculture Sector 2018 (%). Source: adapted from ASEAN Statistical Yearbook 2019, ASEAN Secretariat, 2020.
Figure 3. (a) GDP Based on Agriculture at Current Prices in USD in ASEAN, 2015–2018 (million USD), (b) GDP Share of Agriculture Sector 2018 (%). Source: adapted from ASEAN Statistical Yearbook 2019, ASEAN Secretariat, 2020.
Sustainability 14 12985 g003
Figure 4. Unemployment Rate. Source: adapted from CEIC Database, 2020.
Figure 4. Unemployment Rate. Source: adapted from CEIC Database, 2020.
Sustainability 14 12985 g004
Figure 5. Real GDP: Quarterly: Y−o−Y Growth (%). Source: adapted from CEIC Database.
Figure 5. Real GDP: Quarterly: Y−o−Y Growth (%). Source: adapted from CEIC Database.
Sustainability 14 12985 g005
Figure 6. Thai Rice Supply Chain. Source: first author.
Figure 6. Thai Rice Supply Chain. Source: first author.
Sustainability 14 12985 g006
Figure 7. Thai Rice Export Quantity Price. Source: Ministry of Commerce, 2022.
Figure 7. Thai Rice Export Quantity Price. Source: Ministry of Commerce, 2022.
Sustainability 14 12985 g007
Figure 8. Thai Rice Export Price. Source: adapted from Ministry of Commerce, 2022.
Figure 8. Thai Rice Export Price. Source: adapted from Ministry of Commerce, 2022.
Sustainability 14 12985 g008
Figure 9. Volume and Price of Vietnamese Rice Exports. (Gray color is the pre-COVID-19 event, red color is during COVID-19). (a) Amount Exported (Tons). (b) Price per Ton (USD). Source: adapted from CEIC, 2020.
Figure 9. Volume and Price of Vietnamese Rice Exports. (Gray color is the pre-COVID-19 event, red color is during COVID-19). (a) Amount Exported (Tons). (b) Price per Ton (USD). Source: adapted from CEIC, 2020.
Sustainability 14 12985 g009
Figure 10. Cambodian Rice Exports by Variety in Five Months of 2020 and 2019. Source: adapted from Cambodia Rice Federation, 2020.
Figure 10. Cambodian Rice Exports by Variety in Five Months of 2020 and 2019. Source: adapted from Cambodia Rice Federation, 2020.
Sustainability 14 12985 g010
Table 1. Food Security Index by Countries in ASEAN 2021.
Table 1. Food Security Index by Countries in ASEAN 2021.
CountryTotalAffordabilityAvailabilityQuality and Safety
Cambodia53.068.848.744.3
Indonesia59.274.963.748.5
Lao PDR46.447.746.149.2
Malaysia70.185.664.076.3
Myanmar56.758.952.263.0
Philippines60.074.353.961.5
Singapore77.487.982.979.1
Thailand64.581.857.359.5
Vietnam61.168.960.464.3
Source: adapted from Global Food Security Index, 2021.
Table 2. Strengths and challenges of food security by country in ASEAN.
Table 2. Strengths and challenges of food security by country in ASEAN.
CountryStrengths 1Challenges 2
Cambodia1. Change in average food costs
2. Urban absorption capacity
3. Volatility of agricultural production
4. Food safety
5. Agricultural import tariffs
1. Gross domestic product per capita
2. Public expenditure on agricultural R&D
3. Protein quality
4. Dietary diversity
5. Micronutrient availability
Indonesia1. Presence and quality of food safety net programs
2. Nutritional standards
3. Change in average food costs
4. Volatility of agricultural production
5. Food safety
6. Proportion of population under global poverty line
7. Urban absorption capacity
8. Agricultural import tariffs
9. Food loss
1. Public expenditure on agricultural R&D
2. Gross domestic product per capita
3. Protein quality
4. Dietary diversity
Lao PDR1. Change in average food costs
2. Urban absorption capacity
3. Food loss
4. Food safety
5. Volatility of agricultural production
6. Agricultural import tariffs
1.Protein quality
2.Public expenditure on agricultural R&D
3. Gross domestic product per capita
4. Agricultural infrastructure
5. Dietary diversity
Malaysia1. Proportion of population under global poverty line
2. Presence and quality of food safety net programs
3. Access to financing for farmers
4. Nutritional standards
5. Change in average food costs
6. Food safety
7. Food loss
8. Urban absorption capacity
9. Volatility of agricultural production
10. Agricultural import tariffs
1. Public expenditure on agricultural R&D
Myanmar1. Urban absorption capacity
2. Change in average food costs
3. Volatility of agricultural production
4. Food loss
5. Proportion of population under global poverty line
6. Agricultural import tariffs
7. Food safety
1. Public expenditure on agricultural R&D
2. Gross domestic product per capita
Philippines1. Nutritional standards
2. Change in average food costs
3. Volatility of agricultural production
4. Urban absorption capacity
5. Food safety
6. Food loss
7. Proportion of population under global poverty line
8. Agricultural import tariffs
9. Presence and quality of food safety net programs
10. Access to financing for farmers
1. Public expenditure on agricultural R&D
2. Gross domestic product per capita
3. Protein quality
Singapore1. Proportion of population under global poverty line
2. Agricultural import tariffs
3. Presence and quality of food safety net programs
4. Access to financing for farmers
5. Public expenditure on agricultural R&D
6.Food loss
7. Nutritional standards
8. Food safety
9. Change in average food costs
10. Urban absorption capacity
11. Gross domestic product per capita
12. Political stability risk
13. Agricultural infrastructure
14. Volatility of agricultural production
15. Micronutrient availability
Thailand1. Presence and quality of food safety net programs
2. Access to financing for farmers
3. Food safety
4. Proportion of population under global poverty line
5. Change in average food costs
6. Food loss
7. Volatility of agricultural production
8. Urban absorption capacity
1. Public expenditure on agricultural R&D
2. Gross domestic product per capita
Vietnam1. Presence and quality of food safety net programs
2. Access to financing for farmers
3. Change in average food costs
4. Proportion of population under global poverty line
5. Food safety
6. Volatility of agricultural production
7. Urban absorption capacity
8. Food loss
1. Public expenditure on agricultural R&D
2. Gross domestic product per capita
Source: adapted from Global Food Security Index, 2020. Notes: 1 “Strengths” are defined as any indicator score above 75.0. 2 “Challenges” are defined as any indicator score below 25.0.
Table 3. ASEAN major agricultural products per country.
Table 3. ASEAN major agricultural products per country.
CountryMain Agricultural ProductsMajor Export Agricultural Products
Brunei
Darussalam
Rice, Milled-
CambodiaOil, Peanut; Meal, Peanut; Oilseed, PeanutRice, Milled; Corn; Sugar, Centrifugal
IndonesiaOil, Palm Kernel; Oilseed, Copra; Oil, Coconut; Meal, Copra; Rice, Milled; Coffee, Green; Oil, Peanut; Meal, Peanut; Oilseed, Peanut; Oilseed, PeanutMeal, Palm Kernel; Oilseed, Copra; Oil, Palm Kernel; Oil, Palm; Meal, Copra; Oilseed, Palm Kernel; Oil, Coconut; Coffee, Green
Lao PDROil, Palm Kernel; Oil, Peanut; Meal, Peanut; Oilseed, PeanutCoffee, Green; Rice, Milled; Sugar, Centrifugal; Corn
MalaysiaOil, Palm; Oil, Palm Kernel; Oilseed, Palm Kernel; Meal, Palm Kernel; Coffee, Green; Meal, Copra; Oilseed, Copra; Oil, CoconutOil, Palm; Meal, Palm Kernel; Oil, Palm Kernel; Oil, Coconut; Coffee, Green; Oil, Soybean
MyanmarOil, Peanut; Meal, Peanut; Oilseed, Peanut; Rice, Milled Oil, Cottonseed; Meal, Cottonseed; Millet; Oilseed, Cottonseed; Oilseed, Sunflower Seed; CottonCorn; Oilseed, Peanut; Cotton
PhilippinesOil, Coconut; Meal, Copra; Oilseed, Copra; Rice, Milled; Sugar, Centrifugal; CornMeal, Copra; Oil, Coconut; Sugar, Centrifugal; Oil, Palm Kernel
SingaporeMeal, Soybean; Oil, SoybeanOil, Coconut
ThailandOil, Palm Kernel; Oil, Palm Kernel; Oilseed, Palm Kernel; Meal, Palm Kernel; Oil, Palm; Rice, Milled; Oilseed, Copra; Oil, CoconutOilseed, Palm Kernel; Rice, Milled; Sugar, Centrifugal; Oilseed, Copra; Oil, Palm Kernel; Oil, Soybean; Oil, Palm; Coffee, Green
VietnamCoffee, Green; Rice, Milled; Oil, Coconut; Oilseed, Copra; Meal, Copra; Meat, Swine; Oranges, Fresh; Oilseed, PeanutCoffee, Green; Rice, Milled; Meal, Copra; Corn; Meal, Soybean; Oil, Coconut
Source: adapted from PSD online, 2021.
Table 4. Summary of COVID-19 impacts on ASEAN agriculture with UN SDG mapping.
Table 4. Summary of COVID-19 impacts on ASEAN agriculture with UN SDG mapping.
Sustainability
Pillar
ImpactShort DescriptionLinks to SDGS
EconomyNegative
(-)
The outbreaks of COVID-19 have severely affected the economic dimension, including a decrease in the exportation of agricultural products and increase in value chain disruptions, to various extents. It also links to regression of UN SDG 2 and 8 in particular.
  • Export markets of many ASEAN countries and other major trading partners such as China were suspended owing to the high number of infected patients.
  • Adverse impacts on the agricultural export sector and the food supply chain system, from the trading of agricultural products to the disrupted value chains and international transportation, caused significant decreases in agricultural export values in all of the countries.
  • The prolonging COVID-19 pandemic has led many countries to be more concerned with the self-reliance of their food security with limited or fully restricted agricultural product exportation. For instance, the Vietnamese and Cambodian governments banned their rice exports due to food security.
SDG 2
(zero hunger), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth)
EnvironmentPositive
(+)
Negative
(-)
The COVID-19 pandemic has both positive and negative effects on the environment
  • The disrupted transportation activities, particularly from international logistics, and reduction in economic activities in ASEAN could reduce the carbon emission, aerosols (AOD, PM10, PM2.5), and air pollutants (NO2, CO) for cleaner air, making a progression toward SDG 13 for climate action.
  • The pandemic has adversely affected the fresh food supply chains and waste. The growth of food-delivery platforms (e.g., Grab Food, Food Panda, and others) in the ASEAN countries has dramatically increased the use of single-use plastics as well as the use of plastic food containers and plastic bags in many countries.
  • Another adverse impact came from bio-hazardous waste from the daily usage of single-use or discarded face masks and surgical masks.
  • Therefore, the new normal consumer behaviors adversely affected the environment and accelerated the increase in the plastic waste in many countries alike, particularly regressing toward SDG 15 for life on land. The adverse impacts also might regress our effort toward SDG 12 for responsible consumption and production.
SDG 13
(climate action)
SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 14 (life on land)
SocietyNegative
(-)
The COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the society in different degrees.
  • From a macro-economic perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has directly affected the high level of unemployment in many industrial and service sectors in ASEAN. Most of the laborers were forced to return to their hometowns and to the agricultural sector, resulting in an increase in unskilled agricultural workers with low productivity.
  • The COVID-19 outbreak also impacted the overall macro-level economy and real GDP per capita. Yet, the food and agricultural products have been less affected since they are considered necessary basic consumable products. Nonetheless, the economic downturn has led to greater caution in consumer spending for healthy agricultural foods. The pandemic has badly affected incomes and poverty rates among families, thereby reducing the purchasing power and capacity for high-quality foods. The income gap has widened between the rich and poor, and inequality persists. The critical concern is the detrimental effect on infant and child growth and development.
  • Overall, COVID-19 has immensely regressed our effort toward sustainable growth, particularly SDG 1 for no poverty, SDG 2 for zero hunger, SDG 3 for good health and well-being, SDG 8 for decent work and economic growth, and SDG 10 for reducing inequality.
SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 8 (decent work & economic growth), SDG 10 (reduce inequality).
Source: Second Author.
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Share and Cite

MDPI and ACS Style

Tansuchat, R.; Suriyankietkaew, S.; Petison, P.; Punjaisri, K.; Nimsai, S. Impacts of COVID-19 on Sustainable Agriculture Value Chain Development in Thailand and ASEAN. Sustainability 2022, 14, 12985. https://doi.org/10.3390/su142012985

AMA Style

Tansuchat R, Suriyankietkaew S, Petison P, Punjaisri K, Nimsai S. Impacts of COVID-19 on Sustainable Agriculture Value Chain Development in Thailand and ASEAN. Sustainability. 2022; 14(20):12985. https://doi.org/10.3390/su142012985

Chicago/Turabian Style

Tansuchat, Roengchai, Suparak Suriyankietkaew, Phallapa Petison, Khanyapuss Punjaisri, and Suthep Nimsai. 2022. "Impacts of COVID-19 on Sustainable Agriculture Value Chain Development in Thailand and ASEAN" Sustainability 14, no. 20: 12985. https://doi.org/10.3390/su142012985

Note that from the first issue of 2016, this journal uses article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Metrics

Back to TopTop