May 07, 2017

08/05/2017: Asia’s food future: A fresh perspective, disconnect between dietary changes and crop diversity

by Raghavan ('Ragha') Sampathkumar

As discussed previously, countries in Asia are facing the issue of double burden – malnutrition and obesity – at varying levels simultaneously

Matured economies such as Malaysia and Korea are seeing increasing levels of child obesity while India, Indonesia, China and Philippines are still facing huge issues of undernourishment.

Nearly a third of all children in South East Asia remain malnourished and majority of them are in these fast-growing middle-income countries.

There is another category at the bottom that requires more serious attention with countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos PDR.

While Asia’s economic growth is shifting the diets towards more protein (particularly from animal sources) and high value (e.g. horticultural crops), the region remains dependent on trade to meet its demand for feed raw materials. 

Although steps are taken in these countries by the policy makers to boost domestic production (e.g. corn in Indonesia), many times the efforts have unintended consequences and result in shortages and increased domestic prices.

On one hand, this could be good for the farmers, but consumers bear the brunt as food prices inch up. However, similar to the geo-political moves that were discussed in the last column, policies often seem to be made in silos and mostly focused on achieving self-sufficiency through increased domestic production rather than having a holistic view of balancing it with international trade.

Boosting domestic production (e.g. corn and soybean for animal feed) proves to be a rather difficult pursuit given that hundreds of millions of farmers in Asia are smallholders with around one ha or less on an average and do not have access to inputs including finance and risk management solutions.

They remain distant and disconnected from markets and infrastructure such as storage, power and availability of quality inputs still remain big hurdles for them to respond to price signals and increase production. Lack of access to technology, from seed and to agricultural machinery, is yet another roadblock for the cultivators who are stuck with subsistence farming.

Due to all the above reasons, grain productivity remains a concern since a vast majority of these smallholder farmers are producing at around a third of the optimum yield.

But on the positive side, it reflects the need and the scope for improving productivity and incomes with innovations customised for the local conditions to help improve their livelihoods and nutritional status.

Read the full article HERE.

The Global Miller
This blog is maintained by The Global Miller staff and is supported by the magazine Milling and Grain
which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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