In its study "'What Asia Wants: Long-term food consumption trends in Asia" released Thursday, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences cites the region's rapid economic growth, population increase and urbanization as major factors contributing to fundamental changes in demand.
The report maps long-term trends in food consumption across China, India, Japan and South Korea, as well as the 10 countries comprising the Association of Southeast Asian Nations: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Food consumption has increased in Asia over the past two decades, ABARES says, with patterns shifting away from staples toward higher value and higher protein foods. As a result, Asia is becoming a net importer of food based products.
ABARES projects beef consumption in Asean countries will be 120 percent higher in 2050 than it was in 2007 and net imports of beef for the region to expand by $3 billion through 2050.
While ABARES expects China to be able to meet increased domestic demand for rice, wheat, vegetables, fruit, pig meat and poultry meat to 2050, with little need for increased imports, it projects major increases in imports for other commodities.
The report says that China's demand for dairy products, for example, will more than double by 2050 compared with 2007. China is expected to remain the largest consumer of beef in Asia in 2050, with the value of consumption projected to be $45 billion, almost double that of 2007.
China's demand for sheep and goat meat by 2050 will be 75 percent higher than it was in 2007, ABARES says.
But in India, where a large proportion of the population follows a vegetarian diet, ABARES predicts imports of vegetables and fruit to reach $14 billion by 2050. Imports of dairy products are likely to reach $13 billion by that time.
Japan and South Korea are not likely to experience such massive demand for food exports because of the relatively high income and food consumption levels already existing in those countries, the report says.
"This report helps Australian food producers and exporters identify opportunities in the marketplace. It provides trends and forecasts that we can use to plan our efforts to increase agricultural exports," said Australia's Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce in a statement.
Australia exports 60 percent of its farm products.
"For Australian farmers to capitalize on these opportunities, the Australian Government needs to reduce market barriers and commit to comprehensive free trade agreements that bring a fair return to the farm gate. This is a priority for the Australian Government," Barnaby said.