The Raghavan Report Asia’s food future: A fresh perspective Grain industry’s drive for innovations by Raghavan (‘Ragha’) Sampathkumar Innovation is the prerequisite for any industry to survive and grow in the long run and grain industry isn’t different. Particularly, the global grain industry does not have the comfort to be oblivious of the future challenges unless it is willing to explore all avenues. Sectors that once seemed too different and disconnected are increasingly becoming integrated and interdependent. Who would have imagined how interdependent are agriculture and informational technology and aeronautics? Today, these sectors are paving way for a new and efficient agricultural industry globally. Similarly, one of such examples I have come across recently made me think how related are human medicine and agriculture as explained towards the end of this column. Since a few months, the global trading alliances are getting reviewed as China is pushing for its Belt and Road Initiative with its neighbours. There are talks about a few hundred billion dollars worth of economic benefit from the initiative with China as its center both as a prominent supplier and consumer. Though the initiative remains to be seen for its reception by the big economies including India, Southeast Asia has warmed up to the idea. It is no surprise that many ASEAN economies have historically been closely linked with China for their trade and for many China remains one of the largest trade partners. This would mean, in the coming years the trade agreements and comprehensive economic partnerships are likely to materialise. However, two of the prominent countries – India and Singapore – are still considering their roles in the initiative. More details and insights will be shared in this column in the coming months as the initiative evolves. China has been in the news for yet another reason as a Chinese firm has pioneered the innovation that was mentioned at the beginning of the column. The grain industry particularly rice sector has been under severe stress in the recent years due to a supply glut in Thailand in the recent past. Although rice consumption in Asia is facing a downward trend due to economic growth in the region, the humble grain contributes more than two-thirds of calories for nearly two billion people. But the sector is at the cross roads desperate for innovations that would open up new options for increasing its utilisation and stabilise prices in the long run. Recently a Chinese company got clearance from the government to initiate clinical trials of extracting albumin from transgenic rice. Albumin an essential item in surgeries can supplement human serum and save precious human life. It is expected that the commercial sale of albumin from rice seeds is just four or five years away. Though this is still in the initial stages of experimentation, this is an interesting example of how agriculture must need to align itself with the other sectors in order to achieve growth. Already agriculture is serving as one of the key sources for several industries such as biofuels and biopolymers. Interesting times are ahead with new and innovative ideas like these continue to emerge pushing its boundaries beyond any conceivable limits. If you have any feedback or would like to discuss anything mentioned in this column further, please send me an email on: firstname.lastname@example.org Or if you’d like to read more of my work, have a look at my blog: ‘asmalltownkid.wordpress.com’ Raghavan (‘Ragha’) Sampathkumar is a seasoned food and agribusiness professional with 360 degree understanding of the complex political, socioeconomic, environmental and cultural perspectives of the Agri-Food value chain. He has more than 13 years of experience working in various subsectors of food & agribusiness including agro commodities, international trade, agri-inputs, biotech, and animal nutrition sectors across Asia-Pacific. 20 | June 2017 - Milling and Grain
Unprecedented times of food insecurity
his year an unprecedented 70 million people across 45 countries will be in need of emergency food assistance, driven by persistent conflict, severe drought and economic instability. Four countries face the threat of famine, putting a combined 20 million people at risk of dire food insecurity according to the UN. It has been reported that the members of the Food Assistance Committee are deeply concerned by the declaration of famine in South Sudan and the risk of famine in Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria. Call for urgent action Acting swiftly in response to the UN Secretary General’s call for urgent action to avert catastrophe, FAC members are working together with the rest of the international community to help mitigate the impacts of food insecurity in these countries, ensuring the needs of the most vulnerable are addressed. To date in 2017, FAC members have provided US$1.4 billion in food assistance to the previously stated countries. These crisis are man-made Matthew Nims, FAC Chair, explains, “These crisis are manmade and direct consequence of conflict.” He continues, “We are in unprecedented times of food insecurity, but we don’t want it to be the year when famine becomes a more commonplace word.” The FAC are calling on the governments of the affected countries to help ensure that there is unimpeded humanitarian access to everyone facing famine, or at risk of famine. They say that without access, the most vulnerable cannot be reached and aid efforts will not be able to help avert escalating catastrophe. They have asked that other donors and members of the international community to provide timely additional humanitarian assistance to save lives and support the people of the most at risk countries.