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Report:  Feeding Asia's Urban Areas Will Strain Distribution Networks in Future

A new report says the migration of hundreds of millions of people from Asia's rural areas to major cities will put pressure on countries' ability to supply food to urban areas.

Asia's total population is expected to expand by 400 million over the next 20 years, and approximately 70 percent of those residents will end up living in urban areas.

The Pacific Economic Cooperation Council or PECC which met during the APEC summit in Bangkok on Thursday, concluded that, despite the growing urban masses, there will be enough food to go around. The problem is getting the food from the farms to the markets in overpopulated urban areas.

Walter Armbruster, the president of the U.S.-based farm foundation, told VOA that the market economy will ensure consumer demand is met in Asia. But the council is concerned that inadequate infrastructure could lead to food waste.

"There needs to be attention to continuing to develop infrastructure to feed the growing population in urban areas," he said. "Most countries [are] increasing the urban portion of their population relative to the rural portion."

Mr. Armbruster says the problem of poor distribution networks will be most acute in China - where the population movement from rural areas to urban is expected to accelerate.

The report suggests that suppliers in China invest in better refrigeration. It also says the removal of protective tariffs will help smooth the flow of food from overseas suppliers. Mr. Armbruster says governments need to implement policies that allow producers and importers to respond swiftly to growing demand.

"Policy leaders need to think about the issues we've raised…. And the changes in dietary preferences as economies change and incomes change," he said.

The report also says that while some cities will face increased demand, cities in Japan will likely see a decline, because of its aging population.

Businesses, academics and economists from more than 14 countries in the region compiled the report.