| Food Composition Data: A User's Perspective (1987) |
|International food composition data|
|The status of food composition data in Asia|
Considering the size of Asia and the consequent geographical and cultural diversity of the continent, these subdivisions are difficult to make, and all contain compromises with regard to the criteria of categorization employed. None the less, all current members of ASIAFOODS collectively developed this regionalization as a necessary administrative structure, and are satisfied with its arrangement.
With regard to foods produced and consumed within the member countries of ASIAFOODS, there is, of course, tremendous diversity and variety. The range of available species of land and sea animals in addition to the cultivars of fruits and vegetables spanning the region is truly immense. Within each of the regions, however, there are sufficient similarities to allow for the systematic development, utilization, and sharing of necessary methologies.
The national surveys of foods produced, imported, and exported, as reported at the First ASIAFOODS Conference, indicate that the staples for the countries within the region are provided by a wide variety of indigenous cereals and tubers. These are supplemented by the importation of both indigenous and exotic foodstuffs.
For the region as a whole, wheat, maize, rice, dairy products, edible oils, frozen meats, and live animals seem to represent the predominant food imports. Exports consist of many of the imports listed above (excluding wheat and maize), with the addition of freshwater and saltwater fish, shellfish, tropical fruits, spices, coconut, and raw and refined sugar.
The subregion of East Asia leads ASIAFOODS in the production and consumption of processed or "manufactured" foods, and in their importation of the unprocessed agricultural products used in those foods. There is, as yet, no significant exportation from this subregion of either processed or unprocessed foods, although internally there is some international trade in these commodities.
The South-East subregion is characterized largely by the importation of basic food commodities for consumption as dietary staples, along with that of foods that are not widely produced in the region (predominantly dairy products). This is offset by the export of a wide variety of foods, including tropical fruits, seafoods, coconut, and cassava.
The countries of the East and South-East Asia subregions all depend upon rice as the universal staple, with the exception of Papua New Guinea, where the consumption of rice continues to increase. Each of these nations also has a proportionally large seacoast, and so seafoods represent a major part of the available food.
The South Asia subregion would have to be considered a slight net importer of foodstuffs, again with dietary staples being imported and tropical agricultural products - notably fruit, spices, and tea - being exported. Some localities within this subregion suffer from a food deficit, and consequently the inhabitants rely upon wild plants for food on a seasonal or, in some cases, a continual basis. There exist throughout this subregion traditional food processing methods, in addition to rapidly developing modern food-processing technologies; all of these food categories are very much in need of nutrient analysis.
The South Asia subregion contains India and China (both vast countries), which, along with Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, share rice and wheat as the predominant staples. They both contain landlocked localities and areas with ready access to the sea. Although there are local variations, underlying similarities exist throughout China and India, and carry over to the countries adjacent to them.
The diversity of available foods within the ASIAFOODS region is perhaps exceeded only by the region's cultural diversity, which is expressed through the culinary and dietary traditions of the various peoples. Again, it is intended that the subregions capitalize upon the consistencies inherent within each subregion.