Lunchtime in Taipei's Ximending district is a test of wills and patience as tourists and locals jostle at restaurants and street stalls to choose from steamed and fried dumplings, flat and thin noodles, stuffed pancakes, grills and desserts. In this foodie haven, one item makes only an occasional appearance on menus and on plates - rice. Once a staple of Taiwanese diets, rice consumption per person has fallen more than two-thirds in 50 years, according to the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), as "smart crops" and "super foods" muscle their way onto plates. It is the steepest drop in Asia but a trend across the continent as urbanisation, rising incomes, climate change and concerns about health and food supplies drive a push for alternatives for the future such as millets and more protein.
"I ate a lot of rice when I was younger but now I eat more vegetables, fish and meat. It's healthier," said Guan-Po Lin, 24, who moved to Taipei for university.
"People are spending more on food, and they want to eat healthy, and rice is not seen as a healthy choice."
About 90 percent of global rice production and consumption is in Asia, home to 60 percent of the world's population. Yet, as trends in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong show, consumption is set to drop significantly as diets change. Per capita consumption has fallen about 60 percent in Hong Kong since 1961, and by almost half in Japan. In South Korea, it has slid 41 percent since 1978, FAO data showed. Alongside that the consumption of fish, meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables has risen significantly. Rice will still be the single most important crop in the region, key in diets and a symbol of Asian culture, but it will not be as dominant in coming years as new foods are snapped up, said David Dawe, a senior economist at the FAO in Bangkok.
"It is the future for Asia - well-nourished people who can perform better. You cannot get that by filling up on rice; you need more fish, meat, fruits and vegetables," he said. Rice is said to have first been domesticated in the Yangtze River valley in China more than 10,000 years ago.
In Asia, rice was consumed mostly by the wealthy and did not become as ubiquitous until the Green Revolution of the 1960s, when governments introduced higher yielding seeds and better fertilisers to improve output and feed expanding populations.
In Taiwan, millets were the staple of indigenous and rural people, and had a higher status in ritual ceremonies than rice. In India, malnutrition is one reason the government is pushing millets which are richer in protein, fibre and micronutrients than rice or wheat, said S.K. Gupta, a principal scientist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad. Also millets need less water and can grow in saline soil and withstand warmer climate, crucial factors as temperatures and sea levels rise in South Asia.
"Historically, a large section of the population was eating millets and maize, but when they moved to urban areas, they switched to rice and wheat," Gupta said.
The shift away from rice in wealthier Asian nations is explained by Bennett's Law, which argues that as income increases people spend proportionately less on starchy staples such as rice, FAO's Dawe said. Rice is regarded as inferior when per capita income reaches $2,364 in Asian nations, according to FAO's estimates. Changes are already evident in mainland China and some southeast Asian countries, where people are eating a more protein-rich diet with more meat and fish, Dawe said. At the other end, food companies and chefs are responding to the demand for healthier diets with millets in bread, pasta, even craft beers. Marketing helps. Production of quinoa increased by more than 70 percent from 2000 to 2014 in the top growing countries, according to the FAO, because it was sold as a "super food".
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.