Across South and Southeast Asia, national economies, workers’ livelihoods and household food security depend heavily on agriculture and fishing. In 2020, the food and agriculture sector was the largest employer in Asia, accounting for 10.3% of total GDP in the ASEAN region. In addition to agricultural workers, Asia is home to approximately 350 million smallholder farmers, who together produce around 80% of the food consumed in the region. Nearly all global fish production (89%) is in Asia where fish and seafood provide the main source of animal protein in people’s diets.
However, agribusinesses in Asia are mired in challenges. Agricultural products are grown and distributed in complex value chains where exploitative working conditions and human rights violations are pervasive. The landless farmers and small-scale producers who grow most of Asia’s food are experiencing the double blow of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, which are reversing hard-won gains in food sovereignty and poverty and threatening the livelihoods of rural communities.
As agribusinesses in Asia have grown and attracted more investment, they have received increased scrutiny from international investors, regulators, consumers, the media and civil society, to ensure human rights and labor rights are respected in their supply chains. Fair Finance Asia (FFA) and Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in Southeast Asia (GRAISEA) support a shift away from socially harmful financing practices in the food and agriculture sector and promote responsible and inclusive business and investment standards in agribusiness value chains.
This study examines financial flows to agribusinesses across Asia, the role and responsibility of the financial sector in implementing responsible social practices and sustainability, the most prevalent social issues in the food and agriculture sector and the gap between what is required by international standards and banks’ sustainable finance policies and practices. Thirteen countries are covered by this report: Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.