The provision of energy-dense, nutritious, safe and affordable food in Asia which will be home to half of the world’s urban population by 2030 is the challenge that China, Indonesia and India would have to face as these three counties will account for 75% of Asia’s new urban dwellers, says the latest Economist Intelligence Unit report.
Speaking at the Launch of Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) Report on Fixing Asia’s Food System organised by FICCI, Cargill and EIU, Union Minister for Food Processing Industries, Ms. Harsimrat Kaur Badal said that in the coming years, India, China and Indonesia will set the food trends for the world and therefore there is a need for a body to represent the three countries that will collectively address the issue of fixing Asia’s food systems in a holistic manner.
She said that the stakeholders need to take a pledge for ‘zero tolerance’ on food wastage as today the entire GDP of Indonesia (close to USD 3,492 billion in PPP terms) is wasted. India, she said had the capacity to become the food factory of the world as it has yet to achieve the yield potential of crops.
Presenting the EIU research findings, Mr. Siraj Chaudhry, Chairman, Cargill India and former Chair of FICCI’s Food Processing Committee said that the report gives the perspective of businesses on what the food scenario looks like in Asia. The key megatrends are urbanisation, the double burden of under-nutrition and obesity, technology constraints, need for transparency and sustainability and politics.
The report lists the opportunities and challenges for policymakers and the private sector in managing these trends. These include defining food security more holistically to cope with structural changes in food demand and supply; predicting and anticipating the convergence of trends for early policy development, and assessing spill-over effects; enhancing national capacity in monitoring food system metrics and natural resources and strategizing by anticipating the convergence and divergence of trends in each market.
The research shows that business leaders overwhelmingly agree that there is cause for alarm around Asia’s food security. The solutions include greater collaboration to enforce food safety standards, educate farmers and improve supply chain infrastructure. Yet a number of other factors—including differing regulations, border policies, import duties, taxes, food cultures, self-sufficiency programmes and uneven economic development—require more robust thinking and policy solutions for Asia’s food system to truly make the needed progress.
The report notes that with Asian cities set to expand by 578 million people by 2030 and up to 85% of the increase in the global middle class expected to come from Asia, urbanisation will have significant effects on food production and demand in the region. China, India and Indonesia alone will account for 75% of Asia’s total population and 60% of its real GDP by 2030. Income growth in Asia will continue to drive the transition away from direct consumption of cereals and towards more diverse diet. Dairy products and eggs account for a larger proportion of calories consumed in India (6%) and China (4%) than in Indonesia (1%). India has a strong vegetarian culture, but projections estimate that India’s meat consumption (mainly chicken and fish at 63%) will rise to 9 kg by 2050, from a base of 3 kg.
People will continue to need access to food that is affordable, safe and nutritious. According to the report, Asia is home to nearly two-third of the world’s malnourished. Across Southeast Asia an estimated 60 million children under the age of five are stunted. One in five children in India are wasted (low weight for height). The government can extend the progress made through policy changes, regulatory measures and encouraging public investments to make our food systems more responsive to nutritional needs. Improvements in nutritional status will not happen unless the incomes of rural households increase, prices of nutritious foods are kept affordable, and households are better informed about nutritional content of food and the need to diversify their diets. Fortification and reformulation focus is already underway in India, ensuring availability of nutritious food to under-nourished population.
At a panel discussion later, Prof. Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog; Ms Madhavi Das, Chief Management Services Officer, FSSAI; Mr. Krish Iyer, Chief Executive Officer and President at Walmart India Private Limited; Mr. Suresh Narayanan, Managing Director and Chairman of Nestle India Ltd; Mr. Siraj Chaudhry, Chairman, Cargill India; and Mr. Debashish Mukherjee, Partner (Asia Pacific), AT Kearney, shared their perspectives on the issue.