Asia needs to change the way it produces, distributes, and consumes food if it is to feed its growing populations at a time of climate change.
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 Asia and the 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 2 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.
Food conundrum: increase production, 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% are anticipated. "Asia and Pacific is 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," says Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, ADB's Technical Advisor on Rural Development and Food Security. "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%-20%, 32%-44%, and 9%-18%, respectively.
Meanwhile, post-harvest losses account for about 30% of the total harvest in the Asia and Pacific region. About 42% of fruits and vegetables and up to 30% 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.
Safe, nutritious, and affordable food for all
“Asia and Pacific is 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.”
It is against this backdrop that ADB is hosting a Food Security Forum on June 22-24. Taking the theme Safe, Nutritious, and Affordable Food for All to echo the inclusive nature of global food security goals, the forum will tackle transformations, trends, and future direction from food production to consumption. At the event, partner institutions, government leaders, private sector champions, civil society organizations, experts, farmers, youth leaders, and development practitioners will discuss strategies, and share experiences and innovations to engineer new approaches and investment while consolidating the existing ones.
Sessions will tackle such major topics 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 will be launched. Apart from the panels, network and partnership events, the forum will also feature a TechnoShow showcasing innovative, clever, and/or state-of-the art agricultural and food processing technologies.
Working for food security
ADB has committed $2 billion annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific. ADB work recognizes the significant role of smallholder farmers, agribusinesses, connectivity, and value chains in advancing the food security agenda and will prioritize business approaches for sustainable and inclusive agriculture. But this is not ignoring 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, while ensuring the improved management and resilience of natural resources and ecosystems.
"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," said Mr. Ahmed. "To this end, the Food Security Forum aims to be a platform to exchange knowledge and work together for safe, nutritious and affordable food for all."