This coming Thursday, 8 August, marks Eid-al-Fitr, the end of the month of Ramadan, when the 30-day long dawn (Sahour) to dusk (Iftar) fasting is broken with celebratory feasting.
Followers of Islam believe that fasting helps them learn patience, modesty, and spirituality. The month-long fast is maintained by serving meals before sunrise and after sunset, and eaten with family or neighbours.
The Sahour and Iftar meals usually contain fruits, vegetables, breads, pastries, meats, legumes, soft drinks, yogurt and cheeses.
What better time than Ramadan for Australia's food growers and processors to quietly reflect on just what percentage of a typical Muslim Malay, Indonesian or Indian's dining table is occupied by Australian made or grown foods?
Sadly not a significant percentage if my time in Kuala Lumpur is any guide.
The world is staring at a serious challenge in the coming decades, as global food demand is poised for unparalleled growth.
As global population ramps up from seven to nine billion people by 2050 and may nudge 10 billion by the century's end, it is worth noting that most of this growth will occur in developing countries, especially in urban areas, which will soon be home to 7 out of every 10 persons in the world. Furthermore, the growth rates of today's low- and middle-income economies are expected to canter along by more than five percent annually. This is three times faster than today's advanced economies.
And the epicentre of middle class growth is right on Australia's front yard.
The mixture of population expansion, income growth and internal migration from rural to urban centres will drive demand for diets that are more varied and more energy intensive to produce. Higher-income urban dwellers demand a greater variety of foods and especially more processed foods.
While human consumption of basic crops such as grains and pulses may soften, the demand to grow these crops for animal feedstock only increase.
Against this backdrop, overthrown Prime Minister Julia Gillard's recent call for Australia to become the food bowl of Asia makes perfect sense.
Australian agriculture can, will and must play a significant role in addressing the demands of a growing population in Asia, both as an exporter and as a source of innovation.
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