Karachi: Per capita vegetable production in Asia and the Pacific has increased some 25 percent over the last decade. Yet, while Asian countries produce more than three-quarters of the world’s vegetables, they and other producers worldwide will need to dramatically increase their vegetable production by 47 percent to meet the nutritional needs of a growing population which would exceed nine billion by 2050, FAO warned today.
According to a UN report, with 2009 as the baseline, the population of ‘middle income’ earners in Asia and the Pacific is expected to triple by 2020, with a six-fold increase by 2030.
“These changes would push consumer demand for safe and healthy products,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. “Therefore there is a need for rapid development in this sector as it has a high potential to grow further. This is one of the areas where serious attention is warranted.”
Konuma made the remarks at the opening of a regional symposium on sustaining small-scale vegetable production and marketing systems for food production and nutrition security, held in Bangkok, Thailand.
Despite the present and predicted future increase in demand, many people are not eating enough vegetables. Roughly one third of the world’s population suffers from micronutrient deficiency. The majority of them are in developing countries and nearly two thirds of them live in Asia.
Micronutrients include vitamins and dietary minerals such as zinc and iodine, and they are necessary for the healthy functioning of all body systems, from bone growth to brain function. If micronutrient deficiencies occur during childhood it affects a child’s physical and mental growth. Stunted children can be found in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, DPR Korea, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Timor-Leste. The rate of stunting in these countries ranges from 30 – 50 percent of children.
“Vegetables are the key supply source of micronutrients to our body, and hence they play such an important role in our daily diet as well as the bone and brain growth of children, with whom we have to depend on our future growth, prosperity and the survival of our planet,” Konuma said.
FAO is one of the key organizations convening the Regional Symposium on Sustaining Small Scale Vegetable Production and Marketing Systems for Food and Nutrition Security, alongside Thailand’s Department of Agriculture (DOA), and with AVRDC – The World Vegetable Centre, Kasetsart University (KU), the Horticultural Science Society of Thailand (HSST), the Vegetable Science International Network (VEGINET) and ASEAN-AVRDC Regional Network on Vegetable Research and Development (AARNET).
The Symposium, hosted by the Royal Thai Government, commenced today, attracting over 200 hundred scientists and experts from 28 countries across the region. It aims to review small-scale vegetable farming, processing and marketing, to encourage improvement in the sustainability of vegetable production and promotion of vegetable consumption for better nutrition and health. It will also examine policy and development aspects to attract industry profitability and competitiveness and to enhance the performance of the vegetable industry in the region.
Following his opening speech in the inaugural session, Mr Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative, was presented with the VEGINET International Award for his outstanding leadership in developing and supporting agriculture, particularly vegetables, worldwide.