Asia needs $800 billion over the next decade to feed itself

Asia’s food and agricultural industry will need additional investments of $800 billion over the next decade to grow to a sustainable size and reach a point where it can feed itself, according to a report Wednesday.

Population growth, changing consumer needs and climate change are among the challenges. The region is urbanizing rapidly, and by 2030 will be home to 250 million more people, equivalent to another Indonesia, with a growing appetite for healthy food sustainably and ethically sourced, according to PwC, Rabobank and Temasek Holdings Pte, Singapore’s state investment company.

Most of the investment, or about $550 billion, will fund core needs revolving around sustainability, safety, health and convenience, while the other $250 billion is to provide increased amounts of food for the growing population.

Asia is unable to feed itself, relying on imports flowing through long supply chains from the Americas, Europe and Africa, and it’s expected to more than double its spend on food over the next decade, according to the report. As the population booms, issues of food security, supply, depleting natural resources, and availability of arable land and water are set to become more important.

“A fundamental change is required across the entire food supply chain in Asia to enable and sustain the region’s food security,” Anuj Maheshwari, managing director of agribusiness at Temasek, said in a statement on Wednesday. “We see immense opportunities for start-ups, businesses and governments to work together in creating innovative solutions.”

Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing and Mumbai are among some Asian cities with the potential to become “agri-food tech hubs,” according to the report. In addition to other initiatives, Singapore will set up a new research institute in the first half of 2020, covering food, nutrition, public health, biotechnology and food safety, among other topics, according to Koh Poh Koon, senior minister of state at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

As part of Singapore’s goal to produce 30% of its nutritional needs locally by 2030, it’s ready to roll out a regulatory framework for novel food such as cultured meat and alternative proteins, said Lim Kok Thai, chief executive officer of the Singapore Food Agency. This will give businesses the space to innovate and create new products, Lim said in remarks prepared for a conference in the city-state yesterday.

Some other key points from the report:

Asia is urbanizing faster than any other region, and will house all of the world’s expected three 30 million+ cities and 65% of the world’s middle-class by 2030, according to the report, which cited the United Nations and Global Economic Development at Brookings.

The region’s food spend will rise to more than $8 trillion by 2030 from $4 trillion this year, according to estimates in the report.

Net imports of food have tripled since the turn of the century, and now stand at around 220 million tons a year, it said, citing the Food & Agriculture Organization.

Current trends show growing populations and urbanization have led to high wastage and poor quality as supply chains are stretched and broken, the report said. Climate change and environmental degradation will hit Asia hardest, impacting available arable land, yields and farm output, exacerbating production challenges. Ranjeetha Pakiam, Bloomberg

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