Wholesale food markets are a critical partner in global efforts to transform agri-food systems and fight food insecurity, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, said on June 25. (Photo=Vendors wear protective face masks at the Asa Branca Market in Luanda, Angola)
Speaking online to the World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM) Conference held in Florence, the Director-General outlined how the COVID-19 pandemic had made it imperative to address inequalities in access to nutritious and healthy diets. He stressed that 3 billion people in the world could not afford a healthy diet and up to 132 million more could be pushed into hunger by the end of 2020.
"This is an unacceptable inequality in a world that produces enough food to feed everyone, everywhere,'' Qu said. ‘'Food security is a basic human right and the wholesale markets play a crucial role in this".
The Director-General noted that the pandemic had exposed the fragility of food security and nutrition and was undermining efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular the target of ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
Win-win solutions demand transforming our agri-food systems with actions across the 2030 agenda, he stressed, while pointing to the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit in September and the Pre Summit in Rome in July, as means of forging partnerships between the public and private sector to provide more equitable access to food and nutrition.
‘'FAO has engaged with various partners to develop instruments that can help the private sector contribute to the development of more sustainable, efficient and inclusive agri-food value chains,'' the Director-General said. He cited the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (CFS RAI) and the OECD-FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains as examples of such instruments.
He also indicated that FAO’s Investment Centre was developing guidelines for wholesale food market modernization and stressed the need for infrastructure, modern digital software and accessible technology to improve capacity and efficiency.
The Director-General also referred to the recently adopted FAO Strategy for Private Sector Engagement which he said would enable FAO to enhance strategic partnerships and scale up efforts to achieve the SDGs.
‘'We are delighted to be in partnership with the World Union of Wholesale Markets and other key agencies and stakeholders. Together we support cities to engage in the global and national agri-food systems transformation,"Qu said.
Martin Frick, Deputy to the Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit, told the conference that 80 percent of the world's food insecure were food producers and the impact of climate change and loss of arable land underscored the need for a collective effort to reform agri-food systems.
Stephane Layani, Chairman of the World Union of Wholesale Markets, spoke of the need for greater accessibility and affordability and the key role played by wholesale markets in ensuring the provision of healthy and nutritious food.
Wholesale food markets: challenges and opportunities
Wholesale food markets are considered to be vital entry points to food supply chains around the world and benefit all stakeholders, including producers, processors, transporters, retailers and consumers.
To better understand the challenges and opportunities of facing wholesale food markets, the FAO Investment Centre launched a study into 35 markets in over 30 countries in April 2021; looking at the range of markets from traditional to more modern facilities, including input from a select group of wholesale food market professionals.
The study, "Upgrading wholesale food markets for food system resilience in the 21st century", is a collaborative effort with the WUWM and is due to be completed before the end of 2021. It also involves input from partners at the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank and Fund, among others.
Through its Investment Centre, FAO has helped developing and transition countries invest in agriculture and rural development to improve the lives and livelihoods of their citizens, especially the rural poor since 1964.
During this period, FAO has contributed to more than 2 300 investment projects in 170 countries, working with 30 international partners. In 2020 alone, the Centre helped countries to leverage $6.6 billion of public investments in food and agriculture.