Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO ADG/RR for Asia Pacific warned of possible future food shortages

24/10/2013 Bangkok, Thailand

While the world presently has enough food to feed everyone on the planet, that’s unlikely to be the case in the not too distant future.

“We have to prepare for the risk of a potential food crisis in Asia and the Pacific,” Hiroyuki Konuma, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, told a gathering of UN organizations and diplomats at a seminar marking UN Day in Bangkok.

While the recent economic development of Asia and the Pacific has been remarkable, the wealth gap has widened. And while the most recent Human Development Report (2013) published by the UNDP indicates the middle classes are growing very rapidly in this region, there are consequences for food security and great uncertainties over the effects of climate change and the development of bio-energy.

“In Asia-Pacific, per capita consumption of food is increasing rapidly,” said Konuma, noting that most of the increase is due to the “increase of middle-income earners in the (newly emerging) middle classes, who would consume more food, especially meat, fish and dairy products.”

Indeed, the UN estimates that by 2030, Asia-Pacific will be home to two-thirds of the world’s middle classes. This changing socio-economic situation in the world’s most populous region, and the change in the patterns of consumption, will create a real challenge.

The FAO estimates that by 2050, food production will need to increase by 60 per cent to meet the demands of a hungry planet. In developing countries the figure rises to 77 per cent. But in many parts of Asia and the Pacific, most arable land is already in use and is, effectively, “stagnating,” said Konuma. “Water resources are also declining,” he said.

Countries in Asia and the Pacific need to work together to find solutions. Multilateral organizations like the FAO and regional intergovernmental organizations like ASEAN and SAARC provide venues to combine individual effects and enhance food security among them. In the Asia-Pacific region, the FAO is working within the UN system to implement the “zero hunger challenge,” with a regional campaign that began in April. Together, with organizations like ESCAP and UNDP, “we should prepare for the potential crisis and initiate pro-active measures,” said Konuma. “We must, otherwise world peace and security will be compromised.”

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