Asia and the Pacific
A Snapshot of Agricultural Research Investment and Capacity in ASIA
By Gert-Jan Stads
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Overall, since the turn of the millennium Asia has recorded rapid growth in its levels of agricultural research spending (excluding the private for-profit sector). Most of the growth in regional spending was driven by just one country: China. In 2013, China invested $9.4 billion purchasing power parity or PPP dollars (in 2011 prices) in agricultural R&D. Spending in India and Indonesia has also increased substantially since the turn of the millennium. These countries rank second and third, spending $3.4 and $1.4 billion PPP dollars in 2014, respectively.
Many countries in Asia continue to underinvest in agricultural research, however. Cambodia, Laos, and Pakistan all invest less than 0.20 percent of their agricultural GDP in agricultural research, which is clearly insufficient considering the numerous emerging challenges these countries face, including widespread poverty, rapid population growth, climate change, and environmental degradation.
On a positive note, the number of PhD-qualified agricultural researchers has risen in nearly all Asian countries since 2000, although in some countries—particularly Nepal, Pakistan, and Vietnam—many senior researchers are approaching retirement age. Women also remain severely underrepresented in agricultural research in Asia, and many countries have a long way to go to ensure that female perspectives are integrated within research agendas and ultimately into the formulation of agricultural and related policy.
Benchmarking Agricultural Research Indicators Across Asia–Pacific
Kathleen Flaherty, Gert-Jan Stads, and Attaluri Srinivasacharyulu
International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC; Asia–Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions, Bangkok, Thailand
New quantitative evidence presented in this report demonstrates that total public agricultural R&D spending in Asia–Pacific increased by 50 percent, from $8.2 billion in 1996 to $12.3 billion in 2008 (in 2005 PPP prices). Most of this growth was driven by the region’s low- and middle-income countries, whereas growth in the region’s high-income countries stagnated. In fact, growth in public agricultural R&D spending in the region’s low- and middle-income countries has outpaced growth in all other developing regions around the world since the 1980s. As a result, the region has increasingly raised the profile of its contribution to global agricultural R&D. In 2008, $0.40 of every dollar spent on public agricultural R&D worldwide targeted Asia–Pacific countries.
Aside from increased spending, most low- and middle-income countries in the region have also made considerable progress in building human resource capacity in agricultural R&D. With a few exceptions, the number of scientists employed in most countries across the region has increased, and in all the sample countries scientists’ qualification levels have improved since the 1990s. This development is notable given the widespread challenges that these agencies face, including attracting and maintaining a pool of well-qualified research staff, and dealing with disproportionate numbers of either aging, senior staff, or junior, inexperienced staff. Some countries with a history of political isolation (notably Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam) still have very low numbers of PhD-qualified staff, forming a significant impediment to advancing the quality of research. Nonetheless, these countries have wisely invested heavily in staff recruitment and training in recent years.
Despite these positive developments, agricultural R&D spending as a share of agricultural output in Asia–Pacific is lagging behind other regions of the developing world. In 2008, of the 13 low- and middle-income countries for which detailed spending data were available, Malaysia was the only country investing more than 1 percent of its agricultural GDP in agricultural research. China and India spent 0.50 and 0.40 percent, respectively, and levels in most other countries were lower still. Even though intensity ratios do not take into account the policy and institutional environment within which agricultural research takes place or the broader size and structure of a country’s agricultural sector and economy, these low ratios are a clear sign of underinvestment in agricultural R&D by many of the region’s low- and middle-income countries. If Asia–Pacific is to meet its agricultural, broader economic, and emerging challenges, including rapid population growth, climate change, environmental degradation, and food price volatility, levels of investment in agricultural R&D need to increase. In addition, such investments will need to be better managed, timed, and targeted to ensure maximum impact on productivity growth and poverty reduction. Increased diversification of funding sources will also be necessary. The private sector, for example, is still an untapped resource in many of the region’s countries. Supporting policy reforms offer further potential to ensure that the benefits of agricultural R&D translate into results.
Asia–Pacific countries are highly diverse, as reflected in their national agricultural research systems. Nevertheless, cross-country and regional linkages are another important strategy for leveraging limited resources and reducing wasteful duplication of R&D effort. To improve the relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency of research outputs, stronger linkages are also needed between the performers of agricultural research and its end users. It goes without saying that good governance is key to promoting the effectiveness and efficiency of research and ultimately to realizing the potential of agricultural innovation.
Public Agricultural R&D in South Asia: Greater Government Commitment, Yet Underinvestment Persists
Stads, Gert-Jan; Rahija, Michael
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
New quantitative evidence presented in this report demonstrates that total public agricultural R&D spending in South Asia more than doubled between 1996 and 2009, while the number of agricultural researchers decreased by 6 percent. These trends were largely driven by India, which has the highest investment levels and strongest human resource capacity in agricultural research South Asia by far (both in terms of size and qualification levels), as well as the highest agricultural research spending intensity at 0.4 percent of AgGDP. Despite rapid increases in recent years, South Asia’s agricultural R&D spending is still very low compared with other developing regions around the world.
Compared with India, agricultural R&D in the four other South Asian countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) faces greater challenges. Relative investment levels are lower in these countries than in India and have shown greater year-to-year fluctuations, in many instances due to the instability of donor funding. Agricultural research staff in these countries is also significantly less-qualified than in India, the combined result of prolonged recruitment freezes, losses of highly qualified senior staff, limited training opportunities, and an aging population of researchers. In addition, political instability in some countries has either delayed or complicated much needed institutional and policy reforms.
The scientific competence of South Asia’s agricultural R&D agencies is high, particularly in India, but as in many developing regions of the world, stronger linkages are needed to connect agricultural research agencies and their staff with the end users of their research to improve the relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency of research outputs. Further efforts to strengthen subregional linkages are also needed in order to better utilize limited resources and reduce wasteful duplication. In addition, good governance is key to promoting the effectiveness and efficiency of research, and ongoing policy and institutional reform will be needed to further strengthen agricultural R&D and innovation in South Asia.
Agricultural R&D Capacity and Investments in the Asia-Pacific Region
Beintema, Nienke; Stads, Gert-Jan
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
The Asia–Pacific region is highly diverse in its geography, culture, politics, and history, and this diversity extends to its economic and agricultural development, and consequently to its agricultural R&D systems. In 2002, the Asia–Pacific region as a whole, including its four high-income countries, spent $9.6 billion on agricultural R&D (in 2005 international prices), with China, Japan, and India accounting for about 70 percent of this total. Regional investments in agricultural R&D grew considerably during the 1981–2002, especially in the last decade of the period, during which time both China and India intensified their agricultural research spending. Other smaller countries, such as Malaysia and Vietnam, also realized impressive agricultural R&D spending growth over this timeframe, whereas spending in Pakistan, Indonesia, and Laos, proved sluggish and at times negative, largely due to the Asian financial crisis, the completion of large donor-financed projects, or high rates of inflation.
Although the bulk of Asian agricultural R&D is still financed by national governments, new sources of funding are emerging in some countries. In particular, competitive funding mechanisms, internally generated revenues, and production or export levies have gained prominence. With the exception of Laos and Nepal, donor dependency is low. The private sector has also become more involved both in conducting its own research and in funding public agricultural research. Human and financial resource capacity is also varied: several countries have well-managed and funded systems producing world-class research, while others––some of which are highly dependent
on agriculture––have experienced significant reductions in their R&D spending and research intensity levels. More than ever, a knowledge divide between the region’s rich and poor countries and the scientific “haves” and “have-nots” is becoming visible. Sustainable financial and political support for agricultural R&D is crucial, as is the creation of attractive investment climates for private investors, if the challenges of sustainable economic and social development facing the region are to be met.
Diversity in Agricultural Research Resources in the Asia-Pacific Region
Beintema, Nienke; Stads, Gert-Jan
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI)
The Asia-Pacific region is highly diverse in terms of geography; population distribution; economic development; and cultural, political, and historic backgrounds. With over 30 distinct countries, the region comprises about 60 percent of the world’s population, including more than half of the world’s poor (IFPRI/ADB 2007). Asevidenced above, this high level of diversity is also reflected in the region’s agricultural R&D efforts. In 2002, the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, including highincome countries, spent $9.6 billion on agricultural R&D (in 2005 international prices). Unsurprisingly, distribution of spending among countries was very uneven,
with China, Japan, and India accounting for a combined total of about 70 percent of the region’s spending. Regional investments as a whole grew by 3.0 percent per year during 1981-2002. Most of this growth took place in the last decade, when China and India in particular accelerated their agricultural research spending. Some of the smaller countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam also realized impressive growth in agricultural R&D spending in recent years, whereas growth in countries like
Pakistan, Indonesia, and Laos was more sluggish (and in some cases negative), for a variety of reasons including the Asian financial crisis, the completion of large
donor-financed projects, and mass inflation.
A similar diversity exists across countries in the region’s human resource capacity in agricultural R&D. With over 50,000 agricultural fte researchers, China has by far the highest capacity. In contrast, agricultural research systems of countries like Laos and Papua New Guinea employed just over 100 fte’s. Average degree levels of agricultural research staff also differ widely, with India having the region’s (if not the developing world’s) most highly qualified research staff. More than half of the country’s agricultural researchers were trained to the PhD level in 2003. Average degree levels in countries with a history of political isolation, such as Vietnam and Laos, are much lower. Nonetheless, all countries in the survey sample improved the capacity of their agricultural scientists in terms of higher education over the past decade, despite widespread challenges facing certain countries in terms of attracting and keeping well-qualified staff. Large gender discrepancies are prevalent in staff composition as well. While the Philippines reported an uncommonly high ratio of female research staff (4 of every 10 agricultural scientists) Pakistan recorded an extremely low share (only 6 in 100 agricultural researchers are female).
Although the bulk of Asian agricultural R&D is still financed by national governments, many countries raised agricultural research revenues through other means. Competitive funding mechanisms, internally generated resources, and production or export levies, among others, have all gained prominence across the region. Donor dependency for the Asia-Pacific region as a whole is much lower than in Sub-Saharan Africa, although it remains extremely high in countries like Laos and Nepal. The private sector has also become more involved in financing public agricultural research in certain countries. In addition to financing public research, the private sector in some Asia-Pacific countries has also become more active in conducting agricultural research. In countries like Indonesia and the Philippines, close to 20 percent of all agricultural R&D investments were made by the private sector in 2002/03. In many other countries, however, the investment climate for private investors is poor, making private investments in agricultural R&D negligible and often non-existent.
Overall, some of the region’s countries have well-managed and well-funded systems producing world-class research, while others (some of which are highly agriculture-dependent) have experienced significant declines in their R&D spending and research intensity levels. Sustainable financial and political support for agricultural R&D is crucial, as is the creation of attractive investment climates for private investors, if the challenges of sustainable economic and social development facing the region are to be met.