by Louise Maureen Simeon – The Philippine Star , 22 Oct 2021
MANILA, Philippines — The food consumption pattern in Asia-Pacific has shifted over the last decades, contributing to significant environmental impact in the region.
In its latest blog, Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) said the need to move toward healthier and more sustainable diets that are environmentally friendly and affordable is important now more than ever.
Developing Asia, including the Philippines, is facing a changing and now more fragile kind of environment as economies develop and become more urbanized.
Increasing population in the region has resulted in higher food demand and the switch to more animal products that are more resource intensive.
ADB economist Manisha Pradhananga and research associate Daryll Naval emphasized that agriculture in the region is now facing a different kind of food supply challenge.
“Higher incomes and increasingly urban lifestyles have changed the needs and preferences of consumers,” the ADB authors said.
“Instead of a diet heavy on traditional staples such as rice and wheat, consumers today prefer a more diverse diet,” they said.
This as per capita consumption of rice has leveled off while that of fruit, vegetables, eggs, dairy products, as well as meat and seafood is increasing.
Daily calorie intake per capita in the region also increased to 1914 kilocalories from 1245 kilocalories over the past six decades. Asia Pacific is now home to more than 50 percent of the global population.
In particular, the share for meat and animal products increased from one percent to four percent, equivalent to 10 grams per person per day from a measly 1.5 grams in the 1960s.
Still, this is well below the 34.6 grams average in advanced economies outside Asia Pacific.
The increasing share of meat and animal products has huge impacts on the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
For one, over 200 tons of carbon is emitted per million calories of beef consumed. Other animal products such as pork, poultry, fish and dairy contribute some 50 tons.
Plant-based products have the least impact ranging from two to six tons for corn, wheat, soybean, and pulses, among others.
Amid changing food preferences, Pradhananga and Naval emphasized that agriculture in the region has to reorient from a traditional focus on the production of food staples to high-value crops such as fruit and vegetables.
“To reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, it is important to move toward sustainable and healthy diets that are also socially acceptable and economically accessible for all,” the authors said.
“Some ways to achieve this are to promote mostly plant-based diets, reduce red meat consumption, promote fish obtained from sustainable stocks, and reduce food loss and waste throughout the supply chain,” they said.