SINGAPORE (Nov 21): In line with a rising demand on the back of population growth and changing food requirements, Asia is expected to double its total spend on food over the next decade to over US$8 trillion ($10.9 trillion) by 2030, from US$4 trillion currently. 

This is according to a report jointly released by PwC, Temasek and Dutch multinational banking and financial services company Rabobank, which delves into Asia’s food and agricultural landscape.

The “Asia Food Challenge Report: Harvesting the Future” report also found that an additional US$800 billion worth of investments will be needed to grow Asia’s food and agriculture industry to a sustainable size over the next 10 years. 

Some US$550 billion of these investments will enable key requirements around sustainability, safety, health and convenience, while the remaining US$250 billion will be used to drive increased quantities of food to feed the region’s growing population.

According to the report, the expected increase in spending presents a huge opportunity for corporations and investors to invest in Asia’s agri-food industry by placing a stronger focus on promising high-impact innovations.

Asia Pacific Deals Strategy and Operations leader at PwC Singapore Richard Skinner that Asia, in particular, faces “a crossroads”. 

“On the one hand, current lack of investment, and the slow development and use of technology across the food & agriculture supply chain has held us back and left us dependent on others. On the other, we can reverse that by being at the forefront of technological innovation, disruption and use, transforming the industry and bringing benefits to the consumer, returns to corporates & investors and value adding jobs across Asia,” shares Skinner. 

The report also highlighted the challenges and opportunities that Asia’s agri-food industry is likely to face, amid food shortages and effects of climate change. In particular, the report notes that the rapidly-urbanising region will be home to about 250 million more people with a growing appetite for healthy food that is sustainably and ethically sourced. 

Ping Chew, Asia Head of RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness at Rabobank, says, “Asia needs innovation and technology to transform its agri-food system into one that is ecologically and economically sustainable.”

“Innovating for sustainability can also bring about value creation, and there are huge opportunities shifting into a more sustainable model that can tackle waste and supply chain inefficiency, produce higher yields, create platforms to connect, and introduce new products and processes,” adds Chew. 

Apart from identifying technology as a critical enabler in meeting these shifting consumer demands, the report also revealed that investment in Asia’s agri-food sector is lagging behind other regions such as North America and Western-Europe. 

This is partly due to the diversity of countries, their varying levels of economic development and regulatory systems. 

To overcome these challenges, the report advocates that greater collaboration and shared responsibility between the public and private sectors in the region must be established. This includes stronger governmental support in terms of policies and legislations that support new technologies and innovations, as well as the formation of corporate venture capital teams and incubators. 

According to the report, Singapore is one city that has the potential to become an agri-food innovation hub. Other cities include Beijing, Hong Kong, Mumbai and Tokyo. 

These countries reportedly fulfil the key criteria of having positive regulatory environments for startups and investments, technical expertise, talent and a strong pool of investors. 

Citing Singapore as an example, the report highlighted how the city-state has already set in motion a range of government policies and initiatives to tackle food insecurity and develop itself into an agri-food innovation hub. In addition, the Singapore Food Agency also aims to produce 30% of the country’s nutritional needs by 2030 through the adoption of new solutions and technologies to grow more with less. 

Managing director of Agribusiness at Temasek, Anuj Maheshwari, says, “A fundamental change is required across the entire food supply chain in Asia to enable and sustain the region’s food security. We see immense opportunities for start-ups, businesses and governments to work together in creating innovative solutions that can transform our global food systems.”