There are many factors which suggest that if the Asian food industry does not take action and support native farmers they could be looking to an era where supply does not meet demand and once again the huge population of Asia faces food shortages and malnutrition.
Why should there be concerns?
A continuing increase in population
Asia remains the world’s largest food market and the population continues to grow at quite a frightening rate. Statistics predict that by 2050 the population will have grown by an astounding 900 million. That’s almost 1 billion. The Asian food industry must keep up this this expansion.
Provision of exports
As a major food exporter to the rest of the world and especially developing countries, Asian farms and the agricultural industry are likely to see demand increase as populations increase globally. This of course is great for business and the economy, but can native farms cope with these fresh pressures? Statistics again suggest that production will need to increase by 60-70% to deal with growth.1
Global warming is having a detrimental effect on food production across the globe. Most farmers are now realising that in order to combat climate changes they need to take on new techniques and technologies. This will be a challenge for farming in the Asian food industry where production is often very primitive.
Water across the region continues to become scarcer. At the same time sea levels continue to rise. The worst scenario is the sea levels rise to such a degree, that farmlands in coastal areas are swamped. This is especially a problem in India around the Indo-Gangetic plain and Vietnam. These changes in turn would have significant effect on fishing areas.
As the yields of staple diets such as soya beans, rice, wheat and cereals fall, so prices will inevitably rise when supply fails to meet demand at home. Statistics suggest that this could eventually lead to a rise in prices of 70%.1
Making necessary changes
Technology in the Asian food industry
The great gap in technological prowess in the agricultural arena between the west and the more impoverished countries in Asia is thankfully reducing at quite a rate. For instance, in Thailand, the Government has followed a four-stage project to help enable farming businesses to access and use the latest technology and techniques to enhance profits, create more consistent crops, fight disease and keep in line with sustainability and environmental goals.
This has meant the Asian food industry have taken on new concepts and innovations within a very short period of time. Robotics, digital communications, laboratory facilitation and analysis – directly or indirectly – are becoming a central part of the farmers everyday work.
In order for these new techniques to be successful, the Asian farmer needs to make quite a leap in what is normally considered to be the tasks involved in farming. Subsequently, has to be a robust educational system in place to support the farmer in learning these new techniques.
Enhancing technological outlets will no doubt allow farmers to streamline output and allow for a better chance to compete with parallel resources. But how will individual farmers manage with the changes, the natural issues noted above and the new lessons ahead of them? One answer is co-operative farming.
A time to support and facilitate co-operative farming
Through small farms and large agricultural enterprise working together, the overall costs such as fertiliser, equipment and education are reduced and everyone benefits. For instance, the co-operative could all buy into one set of machinery or expensive assets, which allow for a much more streamlined harvesting, less cumbersome and time-consuming processes (there is no need to carry out the tasks by hand). Produce gets to market quicker, in better shape and through a process which is much better for the environment.
As farming organisations work together it is likely that knowledge, skills and ideas will naturally be transferred during the working process – so bringing down the cost of and enhancing the whole educational procedure needed.
Co-operative farming is still quite new in Asia but with a firm and robust framework it could enable individual farmers develop with their neighbours, make the most of their farming input, maximise profits and provide food for the area as well as for exports.
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