Rising demand for high-quality agricultural products in China has created more opportunities for Southeast Asian exporters, according to a report by an international research institute in Beijing.
Benefiting from China's growing appetite, some countries in the region, including Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, are exporting more tropical fruits, while strong growth in Chinese demand has led to a surge in palm oil exports from Malaysia and Indonesia as well as rice exports from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, the report by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute said on Tuesday.
Despite rising protectionism around the world, countries in Southeast Asia are pursuing regional integration, and China's Belt and Road Initiative is welcomed because it meshes with their integration and infrastructure needs, the report said.
While progress is being made, food security and nutrition remain concerns in many parts of the world, and serious hunger still exists in countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar, Fan Shenggen, director-general of the institute, said.
Fan called for free trade to improve global food security and nutrition. "Open trade can contribute to food security and reduce natural resource use and environmental impact," he said. "Trade restrictions will increase consumer prices and limit market access for producers, putting pressure on food security."
The volume of trade between China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations reached $514 billion last year, up 13.8 percent on 2016, according to China's Ministry of Commerce.