Asia – Vacation Spot! And Much More…

Vietnam - one of the most important agriculture center in Asia Pacific.


It is summertime. It is that time of year when everybody shares holiday plans, stories, experiences from vacation spots around the globe. And again, Asia remains one of the most popular places to be during the summer months. The great variety of cultures, landscapes, climate zones, natural reserves make this region something very special for hikers, culture vultures, adventurers or beach tourists. But let us look at this region from a different perspective – the agricultural side – and you will be surprised what else Asia has to offer.

Rice, corn, wheat, coffee, bananas, fruits, nuts – all these things and much more that we see on supermarket shelves – Asia produces every day. In total, 400 million farmers work 365 days a year to feed not just their families but others throughout the world. I, an avid Asia fan, am always impressed by the huge quantity that Asia is able to produce day by day. Let’s take rice as an example: 90 % of the world’s rice is produced and consumed in Asia Pacific, which is 419,385,000 tons of rice every year! More than 200 million rice farmers consistently make the region into the biggest rice exporter worldwide, with Thailand, Viet Nam and India rounding out the Top 3.


In total Asia Pacific has an agricultural area as large as 600 million soccer fields – that is a lot of World Cups? But look at the farm sizes: Most of the farmers only own very small areas of land, usually less than 1 hectare of land. The exceptions here are Australia and New Zealand, which have large scale farms with more than 500 hectares. About 150,000 farms make Australia a major agricultural producer and exporter in Asia Pacific. The country ranks second largest barley exporter and third largest wheat exporter worldwide. I would have never expected this from the island and its golden outback.


Let’s go further to the Northwest, in the heart of Asia Pacific and one of the top-producers of my favorite nuts – cashews. I am talking about Viet Nam.


As you can see with the spelling, Viet Nam comes from two words. 'Viet' means the people, and 'Nam' south. Chinese used this phrase centuries ago – to them it is simply 'the people of the south'. About 90.5 million people currently live in Viet Nam, making it the 13th largest country in the world by population. And what a wonderful paradise for now about more than 5 million tourists per year. And what an important agriculture center in Asia Pacific!


Apart from cashews, Viet Nam produces rice, corn, sweet potatoes, cassava, sugarcane, peanut, soya bean, coffee, tea, rubber, pepper, coconut, pineapple and other fruits. It goes without saying that agriculture is a very important economic sector for the country: Of all households in Vietnam, 70 % earn their livelihood from agricultural production. The predominant crop is rice, which is grown in the Red River delta, the Mekong delta and coastal zones. In addition, fish cultivation remains another main source of livelihood.


Despite these impressive facts and figures, Vietnamese farmers face a number of unique challenges, such as the need to increase yield and quality of crops in a sustainable manner. The pressure is not only on this country but also Asia Pacific as a whole: The region is facing big challenges to continue feeding its growing population. More than 50 percent of the world´s population will live in Asia Pacific by 2050; the growing population and changing dietary habits lead to more meat consumption and thus to an even higher demand for grains. At the same time, the availability of arable in Asia Pacific is likely to decrease.


For BASF the core question is, how to support Asia Pacific farmers to advance food availability and food quality. Last week BASF announced that the company will from now on market its crop protection products directly in Vietnam to support farmers with disease control, as well as improved yield, stress tolerance and quality of crops. (This follows on the heels of the announcement back in March that BASF will adopt a direct market approach in Australia, starting in 2014.)


This, plus BASF’s strong investments in R&D in and for Asia Pacific shows a clear commitment to the region – as we could learn, not only a great vacation spot but much, much more.

Sources: Vietnam Food Association