March 2011: While South Asia navigated the financial crisis better than most regions, the region suffered the worst in terms of trade deterioration during previous food and fuel crises. With global food and fuel prices rising again, South Asia will be affected disproportionally. Regional inflation is already high and countries have limited fiscal space to maneuver.
About 75% of South Asia’s poor live in rural areas and agriculture sector employs about 60% of the labor force. The region has made enormous strides during and after green revolution in improving agricultural productivity. The revolution allowed the region to lift millions of people out of poverty. Agricultural growth during this period reduced poverty by raising farm incomes, increasing the demand for rural labor, and reducing food prices. In recent years, however, agricultural growth in South Asia has been less than 3%, far below the growth rates of other economic sectors.
The continuing increase in world food prices and the fact that the region is net importer of food has brought agriculture into focus in many South Asian countries.