Innovations in vegetable food systems in LMICs in Asia
This article published in the FFTC Agricultural Policy Platform states that improving food safety and nutrition security, requires innovations that simultaneously increase the supply and demand for vegetables.
The coexistence of undernutrition with overweight and obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies clearly indicates that current food systems are failing people’s health. The trend is a homogenization of diets with processed and unhealthy foods that are rich in salt, sugar and saturated fats but poor in essential vitamins and minerals. One of the greatest challenges is to convince consumers to change their dietary habits to eating healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables. But when the demand exists, the challenges of supply and food safety still remain. Only a food system approach will help ensure that safe and nutritious vegetables are not only available but also accessible, affordable and consumed.
Food systems can be seen as made up of three fundamental elements:
- food supply chains,
- food environments, and
- consumer food behavior.
Using this framework, the authors discuss the challenges, the innovations and changes needed to enhance safe vegetable production and consumption in lower and middle income countries in Asia. For example, to enhance awareness and acceptability (part of element 3), it should be stimulated to include micronutrient-dense crops in farmers’ cropping calendar (e.g. traditional vegetables).
Another example, to enhance affordability and accessibility (part of element 2), shorter value chains should be promoted as they stimulate greater connectivity between farm and plate and may convince consumers to eat more vegetables. Many consumers are worried about food safety issues and once they understand how and where vegetables are produced they may become more likely to purchase and consume vegetables.
To conclude, in the current context of global malnutrition, the importance of investing in vegetable research and innovations, is more relevant than ever.