FAO Press Release 97/66

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Press Release 97/66


Rome, November 13 -- Major extension of a programme to improve food supply and distribution in the rapidly expanding cities of the developing world was announced today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), coupled with an appeal for financial support from donors.

Following phase I of the programme, launched in francophone countries of West Africa in 1995 and funded by France, Italy and FAO itself, FAO said it now plans to extend the programme, adapted to local needs and circumstances, to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Near East, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and Central and Eastern Europe.

FAO sees its Food into Cities initiative as an important part of its follow-up to last year’s World Food Summit in Rome which recognized the urgent need to improve the efficiency of food marketing systems and the links between food producing and food consuming areas.

The world is becoming increasingly urbanized, and the latest estimate is that 61 percent of the global population will be living in cities by 2025. In Africa, cities will account for nearly 60 percent of the population, compared to only 20 percent in the 1960s. In Latin America, although growth is not so fast, some 85 percent of people will be in cities by 2025, and in Central and Eastern Europe, 75 to 80 percent.

FAO announced the extension of its Food Supply and Distribution to Cities programme at a seminar during the current session of the FAO Conference in Rome.

Programme Coordinator Olivio Argenti said: "Numerous institutions and donors have favourably noted the achievements of the first phase of the programme and have expressed their support for its expansion into new geographical areas. However, the future of the programme, its geographic coverage, its duration as well as the extent and depth of its activities and, consequently, its results, will depend on the interest of beneficiary countries and on donor support.”

A major thrust of the programme is to bring together both the interests and experience of a wide range of concerned bodies, including local authorities, central governments, chambers of commerce and agriculture, consumer, trader, producer and transport associations, non-governmental organizations, research institutions, wholesale and retail markets and financial institutions.

The role of the private sector is particularly important, according to FAO. A programme document states: “Since direct action by state institutions has proved

ineffective, there is now an urgent need to make efficient, well-managed services and infrastructure available for use by the private food trade.” Traders needed to be provided with an adequate legislative and regulatory framework and incentives to invest, as well as a stable political and economic environment and opportunities to make profits.

The long-term objective of the programme is to benefit urban consumers, and especially the poorest, whose access to food in terms of price, volume, variety and quality should improve significantly. Small and medium-scale traders and entrepreneurs should benefit through improved efficiency and competitiveness, and food producers should find themselves being better integrated into the market system. Greater efficiency in the marketing chain should also ensure better farm-gate prices for producers and, in turn, give a boost to food production volumes.

The programme focuses on information, research and planning, on training and coordination and working out policies, strategies and programmes to tackle individual circumstances. It also involves setting up a network for all involved to exchange information and experiences and gives a high priority to raising levels of technical expertise among decision-makers and planners.

According to Mr Argenti: “The challenges facing decision-makers in the years to come include those of meeting the rapidly increasing urban food demand, reducing dependence on imports and conveying food to consumers at the lowest possible cost while creating jobs in the food marketing and distribution sector. Dynamic and efficient, private sector driven food supply and distribution systems are vital if the food security of urban consumers, especially the most needy, is to be improved.”


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