It’s time to look beyond the quantity of food and start thinking about the quality, say experts.

Adelia Anjani Putri   16 March 2017 17:00

With its ever-growing population, Asia is facing many challenges when it comes to food security and agriculture. One of the most apparent challenges is the availability of food.

“We need more than 50-60 percent increase in production by 2050. Can our farmers do that?” asked Kundavi Kadiresan, the assistant director-general and regional representative of United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), during the Responsible Business Forum in Jakarta on Tuesday.

“We also need to know how to use ICT (Information and Communications Technology) to boost the production, how farmers can benefit from it. There’s also a gender issue in agriculture. People are migrating and women are left to do the farming. Knowledge and research information need to cater to woman. Scale is something we need to think about if we want to reach a common ground and solution to those problems.”

However, the business forum shed a light to another big problem that has been overlooked often: the problem of nutrition.

According to FAO’s 2016 report, almost 12 percent of Asia’s population are undernourished. Even worse, stunting — chronic cases of undernourishment — is still a big problem haunting developing countries, including Indonesia. In fact, the prevalence of stunting among children under the age of five in Indonesia reached 36.4 percent around the year 2010. The number decreased from the around-year-2000 data of 42.4 percent, but it is still a big problem for the country’s development.

On the other hand, there is a paradox of hunger and obesity. While many countries in Asia face the burden of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, obesity prevail simultaneously. 

Kadiresan said that the triple problems need real solutions as soon as possible.

“Grains are good, but it’s not enough. We need crop diversification. Even the very poor should have access to variation of food, not just rice alone,” she said.

“It’s something the UN has been looking at, the full system approach that includes not only one aspect of the food chain, but the entire cycle — from production to consumption.”

She also demanded the private sector to do their fair share in achieving the goal.

“The private sector, my question for them is: what are you doing? You shouldn’t only talk about selling goods but also selling the knowledge (to the people) because the government alone does not have the access (to reach all people),” she said.

Danesh Gordon, the president director of Nestle Indonesia, agreed to Kadiresan’s suggestion, saying that food manufacturers should also promote healthier lifestyle to their customers.

“Food manufacturers have the responsibility of providing and educating customers beside providing healthier and tastier options,” he said.

But Gordon contended that the responsibility shouldn’t be burdened only to the manufacturers.

“The education about healthier choice should start at home. The government also should create the framework how to create healthier Indonesia as they are the guardian of the society. Don’t wait for the other person to do it first. It should happen at the same time,” he said.

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