As urban population and poverty soar in developing world, FAO expands programme to improve food supply and distribution

Urban population figures continue to escalate in much of the developing world and so too do urban poverty levels. The problem of feeding the ever-increasing number of city dwellers is a pressing one. By 2025, 57 percent of the population in the developing world will be living in urban areas, up from 37 percent in 1995. Many African and Asian cities will double their population in 20 years.

Improving food supply and distribution to urban markets is a pressing problem

An FAO programme to improve food supply and distribution in the rapidly expanding cities of the developing world is currently undergoing a major expansion. The aim of the programme, Food Supply and Distribution to Cities, is to benefit urban consumers, and especially the poorest, whose access to food in terms of price, volume, variety and quality should improve significantly, according to its coordinator Olivio Argenti.

"Future challenges facing decision-makers include 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," said Argenti. "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".

Phase I of the programme was launched in West African francophone countries in 1995. Under phase II, the programme will be extended 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.

The FAO initiative is 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. Towards this end, the programme will bring together the interests and experience of a wide range of players, including local authorities, central governments, consumer, trader, producer and transport associations, non-governmental organizations, research institutions, wholesale and retail markets and financial institutions.

17 November 1997

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