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Press Release 00/63


Rome, 23 November 2000- At the dawn of the third millennium, more than half of the world's population lives in cities or urban areas. This creates a major challenge to feed an increasing population on existing land and water resources. The world community also needs innovative ideas to change the way we manage our cities. By 2015, 26 cities in the world, are expected to have populations of 10 million or more. In Asia, in particular, with the highest concentration of cities in the world, 20 to 40 percent of the urban population are poor and run the risk of becoming tomorrow's most food insecure.

"We are confronted by a major challenge: to respond to the basic needs of those who don't have access to adequate quantities of nutritional food, with increasing urbanization and food demand on the rise, with over 50% of humanity already living in cities and towns of which a high proportion of poor households live in slums ", according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

"It is essential to reduce the cost of food paid by the poor urban families and to improve the quality and variety of food products available in urban areas. This can be achieved through more efficient rural, periurban and urban food production, food transport, storage, processing and distribution activities", says Mr. Olivio Argenti, an FAO Economist, specialized in food marketing in developing countries. "In fact, the task of adequately feeding the cities requires the co-ordinated interaction of food producers, transporters, market operators and a myriad of retail sellers. In Bangkok, as in previous regional seminars, FAO's intention is to sensitize City and Local Governments and assist them in formulating sound policies and programmes."

National, international organizations and institutions concerned with urban food security in Asia will gather in the Thai capital Bangkok, to attend an FAO promoted regional seminar "Feeding Asian Cities" , from 27 to 30 November 2000. "Asian Cities, like many cities of Africa and Latin America, are growing rapidly. The extent of urban food insecurity and possible interventions to alleviate it are not sufficiently appreciated by central and local government institutions and by the international community", explains Mr. Argenti.

A key concern is to ensure adequate food and nutritional intake by poor and vulnerable groups, especially the unemployed, workers with unstable incomes or nursing mothers and children who live in slums and periurban areas. FAO experts believe that sound policies on feeding cities can also contribute to creating formal and informal employment opportunities as well as to reducing food contamination and thus health and environmental problems.

FAO's initiative for "Food Supply and Distribution to Cities" constitutes a major follow-up to the 1996 World Food Summit. It draws attention to the need to improve the efficiency of food supply and distribution activities and rural-urban linkages. This is achieved mainly through institutional strengthening and cooperation.

"Rapid urbanization in Asian cities is characterized by spreading street begging, unregulated use of open spaces for urban and periurban agriculture, inadequate and ill-managed market infrastructure, long distances from markets, contributing to increasing food prices", according to Mr. Olivio Argenti.

Many cities in the world face food supply and distribution problems. Their specific constraints, the solutions that have been identified, the available professional experience and expertise, can be most valuable to other cities who need to strengthen the skills of their managerial and technical staff in identifying local problems and sustainable solutions. North-South and South-South partnerships among cities (particularly among twinned cities) will receive special attention during the seminar.

In Bangkok, FAO will raise awareness of the need for Mayors, City Executives and Urban Planners to play a proactive and leading role in developing efficient food supply and distribution systems in favour of the urban poor. The Rome-based UN Food Agency will call on its partners for increased technical support to City and Local Governments. The Asian seminar, organized by CityNet and the Association of Food Marketing Agencies in Asia and the Pacific (AFMA), has also received support from GTZ, France, the Inter-governmental francophone Agency, the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) and the World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM).


Further information on the Bangkok Seminar "Feeding Asian Cities" is available on the Internet at:

or please contact:

-Mr. Olivio Argenti,FAO Economist, Marketing and Rural Finance Service (Agriculture Department) at

-Mr. Diderick de Vleeschauwer, FAO Regional Information Officer, Bangkok, Thailand at: Tel.:(662) 281-7844; fax:(662)280-0445); E-Mail:


Sound clips (2)

1.  FAO expert Olivio Argenti, said in an interview with Liliane Kambirigi (FAO Information Division), that dynamic policies and strategies needed to be put in place to stop a growing poverty in growing Asian cities.

Duration: 2min17sec

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In mp3 (Broadcast quality , to be downloaded, 1,040Kb)

2.  The Indian city of Calcutta, West Bengal, is enlarging at a rapid pace. Although the city is regularly supplied with locally-produced rice and wheat by the State, food habits are being deeply modified by street and fast food. The problem will be addressed in Bangkok by the Mayor of Calcutta, Mr. Mookerjee SUBRATA. This is what he confirmed to the FAO Radio unit.

Duration: 1min57

In Realaudio (Instant play, 242 KB)

In mp3 (942Kb to be downloaded)

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