Megatrends such as urbanisation, burden of obesity and undernutrition and politics are driving the divides in Asian food systems and managing them is increasingly proving to be a challenge for policymakers and the private sector, a report on Asian food systems pointed out.
According to the report “Separate Tables: Bringing together Asia’s food systems,” urbanisation that is occurring at a faster pace in developing countries of the continent will have a significant impact on food production and demand, as urban consumers have more diverse diet and typically consume more convenience food.
“Competition for land will also affect trade in food and supply chains, particularly as modern retail becomes more prominent and changes food distribution systems,” said the report jointly brought out by Cargill and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
According to the report’s findings, urbanisation, income growth and greater food availability through trade will encourage broad dietary convergence around higher-value categories of food and that the shift in diet and lifestyle will have health implications.
“Increased access to more energy-dense food and general income growth are likely to drive limited convergence towards the reduction of undernutrition, and instead pivot Asia towards the double burden of undernutrition and obesity,” the report warned.
It further said that decisions about how to allocate resources between urban and rural areas will become more political as countries urbanise.
“Water scarcity will become a key issue as national interests diverge, with the advantage resting with upper riparian countries. The headwaters of six of Asia’s major rivers are located in Tibet, giving China significant control over water flow to lower riparian countries,” the report pointed out.
All this, the report said, pose both challenges and opportunities to policymakers and the private sector in managing these trends.
Policymakers, therefore, needed to better define food security to cope with structural changes in food demand and supply. Similarly, they also needed to predict and anticipate convergence of trends for early policy development, as also enhance national capacity in monitoring food system metrics and natural resources, the report said.
“When setting corporate strategies, companies could consider how these megatrends are likely to converge and where they will remain divergent,” the report said, adding that companies would still need to consider specific market dynamics in each country, perhaps even each province and city.
“Consumers in Asia are likely to shift to modern retail, but modern retail in Asia may look quite different from the big-box concepts of in the US or even modern retail in Europe,” it added.