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Asia's Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain


FILE - A combine drives through a field of soft red winter wheat during the harvest on a farm in Dixon, Illinois, July 16, 2013.

FILE - A combine drives through a field of soft red winter wheat during the harvest on a farm in Dixon, Illinois, July 16, 2013.


Asia’s growing middle-class population is changing its diet from the traditional bowl of rice to more Western-style food. The change in taste increases demand for more grains, especially wheat-based foods.

Countries such as Australia and the United States have gained from the increase in demand for wheat. But the increase poses a challenge for the global food industry in the years ahead to meet the demand.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says by 2030 two-thirds of the global middle class, or 3.3 billion people, will live in Asia.

Greg Harvey is managing director of the Interflour Group in Singapore. He says, "when you have a growing middle-class population with high disposable income, the demand for grain-based food products, more red meat protein and dairy products grow.”

In Indonesia, the fastest-growing segment of food is bread. China is importing more barley for beer production and feed grain for the meat industry.

Nick Reitmeier is vice president at Thailand's Central Food Retail group. He says the change is apparent in malls and supermarkets where more people ask for “Westernized food.”

"Bread is one of the key factors here. We're selling a lot of sourdough bread today. And most Asian people have really liked the taste of it in the bakery, so even specialty bread where they use different flour like from Austria, purple wheat flour, Japanese flour, you know, there's a huge demand for flour as well as bread mixes."

In its annual forecast released in March, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) says Australia's grain and oilseed production will rise over the next five years from 24 million tons to over 42 million.

Despite the growth, wheat traders say Australia will not meet the rising demand. That leaves the way open for increased sales from the United States, Canada and the Black Sea region into Asia.

Ron Storey is a consultant with Australian Crop Forecasters. He says changing food tastes is driving the demand.

"That shift, if you like, from the bowl of rice across to chicken and pork and more dairy products is what's happening and that seems to be what's driving the demand. One of the real questions, I think, from a supply side, is the capacity of the different origins of grain production to be able to meet that demand over the next 10- to 20-year period."

I’m Marsha James.

Ron Corben reported and wrote this story. Marsha James wrote it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

segment – n. one of the parts into which something can be divided

forecast – n. a statement about what you think is going to happen in the future

capacity – n. the ability to do something

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