Food Security Challenges Asia’s Rising Prosperity

Food Security Challenges Asia’s Rising Prosperity
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Asia’s economic growth over the last decade has been relentless, bringing with it a rising population and an influx of people from the countryside to the cities in search of prosperity. These trends are not expected to abate. By 2025 the total population of the Asia Pacific region should reach about 4.4 billion. And over the next 40 years Asia’s urban population is projected to increase from 1.9 billion to 3.2 billion.

In another significant trend, the middle income population will also grow to about two billion by 2050. Such demographic shifts bring benefits, but many problems also — whether providing jobs, services, or a clean environment. The accompanying rising incomes and rapid urbanization bring about other less obvious pressures, such changes in dietary preferences, which cause a shift toward more land and water intensive meats and foodstuffs.

This creates a conundrum. Increase food production, but at the same time avoid waste. Without a significant increase in food production above current trends, declines in caloric availability and an increase in child malnutrition by up to 20 per cent are anticipated.

According to Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, Asian Development Bank (ADB) technical advisor on rural development and food security, “Asia and the Pacific are home to the largest numbers of the food and nutrition insecure people in the world, accounting for almost two thirds of the world’s total of 800 million. The region faces new challenges to produce and access more nutritious and safe food for its growing populations. Thus, achieving food security for all, now and into the future, is at the core of the post-2015 development agenda.”

In this regard, climate change and disaster risks, financing gaps, poor logistics and infrastructure deficits are among the other major constraints to realize the Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.

For example, projections to 2050 for Asia and the Pacific show that with temperatures rising, yields of rice, wheat, and soybeans may decline by 14 per cent – 20 per cent, 32 per cent – 44 per cent, and 9 per cent – 18 per cent respectively.

Huge Amount of Food Wasted

Failure to increase food production, but at the same time avoid waste could see declines in caloric availability and an increase in child malnutrition by up to 20 per cent by 2050 in the Asia Pacific region
Failure to increase food production, but at the same time avoid waste could see declines in caloric availability and an increase in child malnutrition by up to 20 per cent by 2050 in the Asia Pacific region Photo: John Le Fevre

Meanwhile, post-harvest losses account for about 30 per cent of the total harvest in the Asia and Pacific region. About 42 per cent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 per cent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, and market facilities, as well as a lack of post-harvest-facilities such as pack-houses and cool and dry storage facilities; lack of dedicated transport systems for food; and poor quality bulk packaging that result in spillage and damage.

It is against this backdrop that the ADB hosted a Food Security Forum Last month. Themed ‘Safe, Nutritious, and Affordable Food for All’ to echo the inclusive nature of global food security goals, the forum  looked at transformations, trends, and future direction from food production to consumption.

Representatives from partner institutions, government leaders, private sector champions, civil society organizations, experts, farmers, youth leaders, and development practitioners discussed strategies, and shared experiences and innovations to engineer new approaches and investment while consolidating the existing ones.

Sessions tackled headline topics such as the region’s agriculture transformation challenges, value chains in agribusiness, safe quality and nutrition in food, and a farmers’ roundtable. Books on Water-Saving Rice Technologies in South Asia and Improving Logistics for Perishable Agricultural Products in the People’s Republic of China (PRD) were also launched. Additionally the forum also featured a ‘TechnoShow’ showcasing innovative, clever, and/or state-of-the art agricultural and food processing technologies.

Working For Food Security

The ADB has committed $2 billion annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific. Its work recognizes the significant role of smallholder farmers, agribusinesses, connectivity, and value chains in advancing the food security agenda.

While priority is on business approaches for sustainable and inclusive agriculture, it does not ignore the need for increased productivity and reduced food losses as well as enhanced food safety, quality and nutrition to meet the growing and evolving demands of the population. At same time focus is on ensuring the improved management and resilience of natural resources and ecosystems.

“The ADB’s support to agriculture and natural resources in the future will emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies, for which partnership building, experiential learning, and knowledge sharing will be crucial. To this end, the Food Security Forum is a platform to exchange knowledge and work together for safe, nutritious and affordable food for all”, Mr. Ahmed said.


This article first appeared on Asian Development Bank under a Creative Commons license and is reproduced here with its permission.




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Guided by a vision of an Asia-Pacific region free from poverty through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration, the Asian Development Bank has been working to improve people’s lives since it was founded in 1966.

In 2017, ADB operations totalled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in co-financing.

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