As food production becomes more advanced, is more likely to be transported over long distances, and medical science has made us more aware of how our bodies are affected by food issues, there is a greater need for ever-tighter food security across the world. The good news is, according to the Global Food Security Index (GFSI), 70% of countries are strengthening their annual scores1. The GFSI considers availability (including affordability) and quality of food in 113 countries. However, there does appear to be an imbalance as to which countries are performing well in the rankings and those which are struggling. What is a little worrying is that there are only 2 Asian countries in the GFSI top ten lists. Singapore manages first position and Australia 6th but way down at the bottom of the rankings are Laos, Cambodia Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Unique factors affecting food production
Food production in Asia remains a step behind those in the West in many ways. This factor coupled with sometimes unpredictable and extreme weather conditions can play havoc with farming activities such as creating high standard and high-volume crops. Statistics suggest an alarming figure of 1 in 9 people across the globe are going hungry and Asia produces less food per hectare than other comparative nations. Throughout a normal farming year, Asian farmers may have to battle against such climate issues as increasing temperatures, drought, fire and increasing sea levels. Particularly bad weather could wipe out a crop and a farmer’s livelihood altogether.
Solutions to Asian food security
To find a solution for climate factors, scientists are looking to genetically modified foods. For instance, where there are the dual problems of drought and rising sea levels there is a need to explore the possibility of developing crops which are both drought-resistant and salinity-resistant (the latter issue occurs when an excess of salt from the sea-waters affects the farmers crops).
A more progressive attitude towards farming and agriculture in Asia would also be beneficial. Using more advanced farming techniques and combining data with artificial intelligence is likely to help Asian countries control future farming production.
However, this may have another knock-on effect. These solutions are creating greater wealth and a new middle class but the quality food, or type of food needed is not available to meet the fresh demand. For instance, The Thai government has recently made major changes in the agricultural sector and is subsidising farmers in learning new roles and techniques. The switch to robotics, advanced farming methods and a change in the average job-role has led to a growth in the middle classes who are demanding more nutritious and healthy foods.
A growing population, a growing demand
Across all Asian countries, statistics suggest that population levels are due to expand greatly. There needs to be robust food production systems to meet this coming demand. It is good that governments on the whole tend to be recognising the necessity for investing in food production but there is still some way to go in creating powerful systems that benefits both the consumer and the farmer. Some officials and scientists believe that changes must start with educating the general public by promoting healthy eating and developing national food security guidelines.
Taxation on food can have an effect on overall availability as in Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and South Korea there are high import tariffs. These tariffs were perhaps designed to encourage natives to buy home produced foods. However, it restricts options and also causes problems when there are bad harvests.
Researchers find that Singapore is doing well. This is because those factors outlined above appear to be in place. As well as having a strong economy, it has low import tariffs and a healthy open trade environment. Though it does not have a great deal of agriculture, Singapore has robust structural policies in place for food quality and safety. There is even a new food security and safety government agency ready to launch in 2019.
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