India has a challenge to feed an estimated population of 1.3 billion by 2018, he said, adding the government is focusing on tapping the agriculture potential in the eastern region.
South Asian countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - account for 34 percent of Asia's population.
"Coming to South Asian region, the agriculture sector is confronted with various problems. The need of the hour is increased investment, policy reforms, innovations in agro-ecology to keep with challenging times," he said at an event organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in New Delhi.
Stating that regional cooperation can bring in buoyancy in agriculture production, he suggested that the below sea-level farming practiced in Kuttanad in Kerala would interest countries like Malaysia, Bangladesh and Maldives.
Being the most populous region, South Asia naturally has a high stake in global efforts in confronting hunger and malnutrition, he added. On India's food security initiatives, Thomas said that the government has moved the National Food Security Bill in Parliament to replace the ordinance.
The bill seeks to provide legal right on adequate quantity of subsidized food grains to 67 percent of the population and it also aims to provide food and nutritional security, he added.


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