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Document Abstract
Published: 2010

IMARK: Information Management Resource Kit

E-learning resources for agricultural information
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As part of the FAO ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World 2004’, this chapter explores how the profound demographic and economic changes are rapidly transforming food systems and the scope and nature of nutritional challenges in the developing world.

Key findings of the study include:

  • following rapid urbanisation, rising income and rapid growth in imports of wheat and other commodities, total caloric intake has increased, especially calories derived from vegetable oils, meat, sugar and wheat
  • there has been a massive ‘dietary convergence’, i.e a greater reliance on a narrow base of staple grains, increased consumption of meat, dairy products, edible oil, salt and sugar, and lower intake of dietary fibre among the urban population in developing countries
  • there has been ‘dietary adaptation’, i.e. urban consumers eat more meals outside the home and purchase more brand-name processed foods
  • the rapidly increasing concentration of food processing and retail trade has reinforced dietary convergence and adaptation
  • in the decade 1988-1997, foreign direct investment in the food industry increased from US$743 million to more than US$2.1 billion in Asia and from US$222 million to US$3.3 billion in Latin America, outstripping by far the level of investments in agriculture
  • the 30 largest super­market chains now account for about one third of food sales worldwide
  • small farmers face many obstacles to joining in business with the supermarkets; meeting standards for quality and reliability may require substantial investments
  • smallholders who have succeeded as suppliers for supermarkets have generally overcome these obstacles by forging cooperatives and serving niche markets for ‘organic’, ‘fair trade’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ products

The chapter concludes that many developing countries now face a double challenge - widespread hunger on the one hand and rapid ­increases in diabetes, cardio­vascular diseases and other diet-­related non-communicable diseases on the other. In order to meet this challenge adequate food and nutrition policies that target vulnerable groups among the urban and rural poor are needed.

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