The sophisticated food demands of newly affluent consumers in China and other developing nations are likely to cause major change in U.S. farming and food production, Asian food policy and world trade, according to Food 2040, a new study of emerging food trends in Asia by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC). USGC President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas C. Dorr presented a preview of Food 2040 at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum.
“Growing affluence in China could change people’s diets and the global food system. Consumers will expect more choice, quality, convenience and safety in their food purchases,” Dorr said. Food 2040 also reveals important implications for agricultural trade policy between the United States and Asian nations. “We are seeing China become more open to acceptance of new technology, such as agricultural biotechnology, which can help meet the needs of the Asian middle class in a sustainable manner through trade,” Dorr said.
U.S. attitudes about feeding the world are likely to change too. “Many of the agribusinesses and agricultural organizations that comprise the U.S. Grains Council are starting to review possibilities for meeting the needs and capturing the economic value that ascendency of the Asian middle class represents,” said USGC Chairman Dr. Wendell Shauman, an Illinois corn farmer and member of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. “Working together with trading partners around the world to understand emerging trends, we can use a convergence of science, technology and policy reform to meet changing food demands and capture the economic potential of new Asian consumers.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is assisting the Council with the launch of Food 2040 in Japan. “Japan and the United States are longstanding trading partners, and we understand each other well. Now, our two nations must learn more about China and develop an understanding of how this emerging mega-market will influence the global food system and our two nations’ participation in it,” said Geoffrey Wiggin, USDA’s FAS Minister-Counselor in Tokyo.
Food 2040 outlines the following possibilities for significant change in the global food system:
- GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEMS RESTRUCTURED TO SUIT CHINA’S MIDDLE CLASS
China is the world’s fastest growing economy, and because of the sheer size of its population, Chinese demand will reshape the global food industry over the next 20 years. Although India is expected to surpass China in population numbers, China is likely to remain the dominant economy within the time frame of Food 2040.
- CHINA AS WORLD BIOSCIENCE LEADER
Agricultural biotechnology may no longer be dominated by U.S. technology. China is on a path to global bioscience leadership, driven by major central government investments to meet its own food needs and a desire to be an export leader.
- NEW ASIAN SYSTEM OF FOOD SAFETY
Asia does not yet have a well-developed food safety and inspection system, but this could change through use of 21st-century nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and logistics systems.
- FOOD AS A SERVICE
By 2040, 70 percent of consumer food expenditures in Japan will go toward foods prepared outside the home, and China is likely to adopt Japan’s rapid acceptance of foods prepared outside the home.
Food 2040 envisions a proliferation of specialty markets and product differentiation in Asia. This is not a new concept for the United States, where the average U.S. supermarket carries almost 40,000 items, but when four billion people around the world with very different cultures and diets begin to enjoy that degree of consumer choice it will significantly affect global food production, processing and distribution systems. The complete Food 2040 study is available at www.grains.org.