The energy sector should not be the only area of focus when it comes to decarbonisation in Asia, a newly published report said.
Agri-foods should also take prime position, it noted.
“If around 50% of greenhouse gas emissions in Southeast Asia and South Asia come from agri-food, then how can we only focus on coal-based power plants and energy sector decarbonisation and not on rice cultivation, food loss, food waste, and fertiliser usage-led decarbonisation?” said Anuj Maheshwari, managing director of agri-business a Temasek
Maheshwari made the comments at the launch of the third edition of the Asia Food Challenge report on November 1 in Singapore.
The report is co-written by Temasek, Rabobank, PwC and Terrascope.
UNDER THE RADAR
The report highlighted that the Southeast and South Asia agri-food sector accounts for 50% and 45% of all emissions in the respective regions.
This means that decarbonising agri-food is a logical choice. Moreover, triple the investment is required to reduce emissions by 840 million metric tonnes in the energy sector, compared to investments required in agri-food.
"Yet, while there are many energy decarbonisation funds present in the region, [there are] not any significant agri-food decarbonisation funds," Maheshwari said.
“Regionally, interest in agri-food decarbonisation is very low and we are behind the curve versus what is happening in US and Europe,” he added.
“Investments in this sector need to be taken at a greater priority in places like India, China, and Southeast Asia. Unless governments and investors look at this sector, not much will move. While there is receptivity to change, the urgency to change is not there,” according to Maheshwari.
"For Asia, the bigger problem is food security, and that is where they are focused on [rather than] agri-food decarbonisation,” he added.
“Japanese and Korean investors are ahead not just in decarbonising their own value chains by improving productivity and yields, but also by providing capital across the region,” Maheshwari said.
“Japan combines the food security agenda with the decarbonisation agenda. With its aging population, it looks at Asia for fulfilling its agri-food needs.”
Temasek has 9 percent of its portfolio in the life sciences and agri-food sector. The $290-billion state-owned investment fund’s focus on agri-food was in place since 2015, and spans many areas, from an Indonesian fish food start-up, eFishery, to an Israeli irrigation firm, Rivulis.
THE LONG HAUL
The Asia Food Challenge report highlights more than 20 technologies and practices that are available today to reduce carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions in the Asian agri-food sector by approximately 12%, as of 2030. This is equivalent to the emissions from the entire global aviation industry in 2022.
Maheshwari also highlighted some areas where investors can immediately focus on that do not require any breakthrough technology development or regulatory changes to be considered.
These include crop input, improving animal nutrition and health through better feed and feed additives, mechanisation of farms, better usage of water in farming, and food loss and waste.
“Focusing on 23 such technologies and practices [highlighted in the report] available today, providing the capital, enabling farmers with solutions that are priced well and helping them in adoption, is what is needed,” Maheshwari said.