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The last century has experienced dramatic urban expansion. The cities of the third have been growing at an unprecedented rate. The number of people living in cities in developing countries has at least quadrupled during the second part of the twentieth century. There has been a trend toward the formation of large metropolises or urban agglomerations.[1] There are now over thirty urban agglomerations in developing countries, and most of those are located in Asia. This development poses a tremendous challenge for the agricultural sector and the food supply industry. While there is a need to transport more food over larger distances, it is also necessary to respond to an increasingly diversified consumer demand in terms of product quality and food safety standards.

This paper analyses the major issues of food production and processing in a world characterised by a constant decrease of public investments in agriculture from an Asian perspective. The empirical evidence provided refers to selected countries in South and Southeast Asia.

The paper is organized around four major themes:

[1] The World Development Report of 1999/2000 (WDR, 2000) defines cities and urban areas as concentrations of non-agricultural workers and non-agricultural production sectors.

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