Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Issues in the region

Changing food systems

Rapid income growth, urbanization and changing lifestyles have resulted in more diversified dietary patterns in recent years. Demand grew for meat, fish, dairy products, fruits and highly processed convenience foods as consumers were able to express their preferences for more diversified diets. All of these changes have been helped by ready availability and competitive prices at emerging supermarkets and fast food outlets.

The commercial transformation of agrifood systems in Asia and the Pacific region poses new challenges, especially for numerous small producers, traders and processors. They must be competitive and responsive to market demand for a widening array of goods and services while supplying regular volumes and complying with standards for food safety and quality in both national and international markets.
The vertical coordination of modern food supply chains has the potential to increase employment and open new markets. But it also brings with it the threat of marginalization of small farmers with fragmented landholdings. In general, the numerous small scale producers and rural stakeholders in the region possess limited technical skills, knowledge and capacity to satisfy modern market requirements.

With changes in dietary patterns, new threats to food and nutritional security have arisen because of unhealthy consumption patterns stemming from lack of information and awareness about proper nutrition. Many people in the region now consume excessive amounts of sugar and fats, leading to obesity and poor health outcomes. Nutritional well-being is thus threatened by the rapid emergence of non-communicable diseases and vitamin and mineral deficiencies creating a simultaneous double burden of overnutrition and undernutrition.