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Food consumption, urbanisation and rural transformations in Southeast Asia

Bill Vorley

IIED Briefing

By 2050, nearly 63 per cent of the total population of Southeast Asia is expected to live in urban areas. Not only is urbanisation profoundly changing urban-rural relations, it is also shifting patterns of food consumption. Governments in the region are modernising food systems, in part to meet the needs of urban consumers for greater food quality and safety. But policies are not always based on evidence, and the focus on large-scale agro-industry and modern retail can undermine the informal economy, which is still important for food security and employment. An emerging narrative recognises the need to leverage urban-rural linkages for more inclusive development.

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Low and irregular incomes are the root cause of urban food insecurity, but inadequate housing and basic infrastructure and limited access to services contribute to levels of malnutrition and food insecurity that are often as high if not higher than in rural areas.

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Urban food security and consumption