Agro-processing maintains a high potential for boosting economies based on agriculture to help ensure sustainable growth and increasing rural incomes in the region. And while the new global economy ushers in a rapid expansion of the worldwide distribution of agricultural products, our concern now is not only to produce food in sufficient quantity, but also to enhance the competitiveness of the Asian agricultural industry in the world market by developing value-added foods based on higher quality standards and improved processing techniques.
This seminar was very timely and fitting, as technology for sustainable and environment-friendly value-added food production are continuously developed, particularly to upgrade ethnic and traditional agro-products and small-scale rural processing in the region. Participants from different Asian countries shared experiences and deliberated on such issues as, problems concerning high value-added food production; effective use of agricultural products for sustainable agriculture; and promoting and developing traditional food industry.
In the last half of the 20th century, rapid industrialization and urbanization have been consuming too much natural energy and resulting in rapid migration of humans and the fast movement of resources and information. Agriculture is not exempted from this fast change and it is now shifting from small-scale to commercial and even to global production. Thus, new agricultural technologies have been developed in order to supply stable and sufficient food to the expanding population. Meanwhile, sustainable agriculture as well as the preservation of the diverse food culture and maximum utilization of food and biomass must be ensured. East Asia in the Pacific Rim is the origin of diverse agricultural technology and food culture, and is envisioned to be at the forefront of scientific and technological advancement in agricultural production.
The extensive application of diverse agricultural technologies is vital in order to meet the demands of an increasing population. Agricultural production in the Asian region is notably decreasing, with the rate of increase in food production less than that of the increase in population, particularly in China and India. Unless changes in agricultural policies are made, the threat of hunger and famine will continue to loom in some developing countries in the region.
More efficient land use is necessary in view of the increasing demand in agricultural products and the decreasing rate in annual production. Optimum production rate must be met in order to keep the sustainable use of land, i.e. crop yield and fertilizer use must be balanced.
Increased crop yield must also be achieved through the use of better varieties with higher photosynthetic activities, and better utilization of phosphorus, potassium, and other minerals under arid conditions such as low or high pH soil, high salinity, and undesirable water conditions. These varieties must be developed as soon as possible in order to cope with the rapid increase in population and erosion of fertile soils through new biotechnology such as recombinant technology and land management.
An understan-ding of agroecosystems is the key to determining effective farming systems. A report of results from a 21-year study of agronomic and ecological performance of biodynamic, bioorganic, and conventional farming systems in Central Europe showed crop yields to be 20% lower in the organic systems, although input of fertilizer and energy was reduced by 34% to 53% and pesticide input by 97%. Enhanced soil fertility and higher biodiversity found in organic plots may render these systems less dependent on external inputs.
Improvement of yields of crops can also be achieved by optimizing traditional or conventional farming, organic farming, and bio-farming or the use of genetically modified crops. These three farming types can co-exist depending on the farming and land conditions. They can complement each other and actually are not competitive, for each will have its own market. It is obvious however that organic farming will cost much in terms of label and management so that the selling price is naturally higher. Traditional or conventional farming may sacrifice sustainability of land use. Thus, bio-farming and good management is the one expected to give the least cost and best sustainability. However, recombinant crops must first be proven to be safe to humans, animal and the environment.
Traditional foods are a treasure box of resources in terms of material and knowledge. The way they are produced, the local substrates used in the countries where they are developed, and the presence of diverse microorganisms in these foods are good and novel resources for the development of technology for the food industry. These microbes and fermented products have various functionalities in maintaining human health, thus, have great potential in the development of physiologically functional foods. Oligosaccharides with mineral enhancing capability, prebiotic activity, anti-constipation, peptides with anti-hypertensive, improvements of lipid metabolisms, anti-obesity, and cholesterol-lowering activity are found in various Asian traditional foods.
Some Asian traditional foods with potential physiological functions and which should be given emphasis for quality improvement through research and development (R&D) include: brem (rice wine), ragi (rice paste), tempeh (fermented soybean), kimchi (fermented cabbage), onchom (fermented soybean), urutan (fermented sausage), nampla (fermented fish sauce), plarah (fermented fish), saigokisan (fermented sausage), balao-balao (fermented rice and shrimp), burong babi (fermented pork), burong kanin (fermented rice and fish), longanisa (fermented sausage), patis (fermented fish sauce), tapa (fermented beef), toyo, (soy sauce), bagoong (fish paste), nata de coco, natto, bonito, yogurt, and calpis.
To meet the food requirements of the increasing Asian population in the next decades, agricultural food production must be increased, not just in terms of quantity but also in quality. The development and promotion of high-quality and value-added agro-products are vital in response to the changing market and consumer preferences amid recent trends in economic development and globalization, as well as the expanding population.
Asian countries must realize the limitation of agricultural productivity in terms of human and natural resources. Hence, increased agricultural food production must be based on technological improvement to promote: a) sustainable, efficient and economic use of land and other resources; b) crop variety improvement; c) value-added approaches in food processing to develop various functionalities in response to changing market and consumer preferences; and d) development of quality standard for processed food for global competitiveness.
To ensure sustainable economic and agricultural development in Asia, food production must be viewed in terms of rural poverty alleviation. Agro-processing must be able to create adequate opportunities for enhanced rural employment, income generation, and economic access to food. Strategic alliance or integration between small-scale food producers and the manufacturing industry must be enhanced, possibly through farmers' organizations.
With the diverse traditional food culture in each country in Asia, there is a great potential for the development of rich and high-quality food resources within the region. We must recognize and re-evaluate the value and importance of the Asian food culture in response to changing consumer preference, the demand for more food variety, and the promotion of physiologically functional foods. However, we must study traditional food processes in detail and learn from these conventional technologies, as well as develop appropriate new technologies to achieve high-quality standard for traditional food.
Finally, Asian countries must learn from the damaging effects of rapid and excessive industrialization and realize the importance of biological industries that pose minimal damage to the environment. Now that East Asia in the Pacific Rim has 60% of the total world population and its agriculture based on the richness of its bio-resources has attracted world attention, efforts must be exerted to preserve this wealth of natural resources through sustainable agricultural practices.
Held at the Sapporo Convention Center, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan on July 13-16
No. of countries participating: 10 (Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan ROC, Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar, PROC)
No. of papers presented: 22
No. of participants: 177
Cosponsor: National Agricultural Research Center (NARCH) for Hokkaido Region
For further information, contact:
Dr. Tokuhiro Momonoki, FFTC Deputy Director
Figure 1 Field Study Tour to Potato Production Areas for Processing in Memuro, Hokkaido, Japan
Figure 2 Some Traditional Food Products from Korea
Figure 3 Observation Tour of Facilities of a Potato Processing Plant in Memuro, Hokkaido, Japan
Figure 4 Orientation Briefing of Participants in a Buckwheat Noodle Processing Plant in Shintoku, Hokkaido, Japan