The United Nations today stressed that Governments in Asia and the Pacific – which has more hungry people than all the other regions of the world combined – should take some major decisions soon about ways to increase food production and address undernourishment.
While the Asia-Pacific region is making good progress in reducing under-nutrition, it is still home to more than 550 million hungry people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“The region as a whole needs to improve food production systems and delivery to consumers or face significant food security problems within the next generation,” the agency said in a news release.
The warning comes as nearly 40 FAO member countries gathered in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, for the 32nd FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific to examine the state of food and agriculture in the region.
Convening every two years, the conference examines the opportunities and challenges in the region and sets priority areas of work to improve food security and nutrition, increase agricultural productivity, raise the standard of living in rural populations and contribute to sustainable economic growth.
FAO noted that some developing countries in Asia and the Pacific will need to increase their food production by up to 77 per cent to feed their people by 2050, when the world’s population is expected to top nine billion.
Asia and the Pacific accounts for more than 90 per cent of world rice production and consumption. The region’s food security and people’s livelihoods are very much dependent on rice. As a response to a request by FAO member countries, the agency has produced a Regional Rice Strategy which is being discussed at the regional level for finalization.
Farming, fishing and forestry practices need to be modernized and made more profitable, FAO added, while countries in the region must take serious, coordinated steps to reduce food losses and food waste, which is as high as 30-50 per cent regarding grains, fruits and vegetables.
Accordingly, FAO launched the regional Save Food Asia-Pacific campaign in August 2013 with an aim to promote public awareness of the need to minimize food losses and food waste.
Another concern is that while most people in the region are presently getting enough to eat, they are not eating the right foods. The result is a high rate of micro-nutrient deficiency – a lack of absorption of minerals and vitamins – which can lead in some cases to stunting among children.
As the rate of obesity increases across Asia and the Pacific, other health problems are emerging such as cardiovascular disease, higher risk of stroke and diabetes. “Treating these conditions, especially in an aging population, will place a great burden on public health care systems across the region,” said FAO.
These warnings and recommendations to member States for action are highlighted in an FAO State of Food and Agriculture report to the Regional Conference.