Boosting food security in cities through better markets, reduced food waste

New FAO partnership with World Union of Wholesale Markets

28 May 2015, Budapest – Recognizing the growing challenge of feeding the world's cities and the importance of efficient urban markets, FAO and the World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM) are partnering to promote sustainability and inclusiveness in the wholesale sector, including developing “best practices” for reducing food waste.

Wholesalers function as brokers who sell agricultural goods purchased directly from producers in bulk to businesses and resellers.

While significant volumes of food are handled in wholesale markets – particularly in developing countries – information gaps do exist about food waste in the marketing process, including storage and transportation, and wholesale markets are focusing on new efforts to address the issue.

Gathering more detailed information on how much food is lost and wasted at the wholesale level, developing sound procedures to improve logistic efficiencies in urban markets and with suppliers and buyers while preventing and managing waste across the sector are key goals of the partnership.

Losses increasingly concentrated in cities

Roughly one third of the food produced globally for human consumption – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes every year — is lost or wasted.  The losses are increasingly concentrated in cities – over half of the world’s population today lives in cities, and by 2050 nearly two-thirds of people will be city dwellers.

FAO estimates that over 40 percent of root crops, fruits and vegetables are lost wasted, along with 35 percent of fish, 30 percent of cereals and 20 percent of oilseeds, meat and dairy products

Calculated from farmgate and retail prices, total food waste represents an economic value of some $1 trillion annually.

By developing best practices for designs and operations of wholesale markets and a more efficient flow of information along the urban food supply chains, the new collaboration aims not only to cut down on food losses and waste but also to enhance producers' access to markets, improve food handling, and make fresher, safer produce more equally available to city consumers.

An official partnership agreement signing ceremony is set to take place later today here, during the WUMW annual conference.

New focus on wholesalers

“Significant effort has been put into cutting food waste at the household level, but not a lot of work has focused on supporting wholesalers who are an important part of the puzzle – this partnership aims to change that,” said Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO regional representative for Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

“Some 60 percent of wholesale markets we’ve surveyed said managing food waste was their number-one challenge for the next five years,” said Donald Darnall, a member of the board of directors of WUWM. “Our markets are embracing 'good practices' to reduce waste and we see this as an opportunity to develop improved waste management strategies and share solutions.”

“More efficient wholesale markets, and overall urban market outlets, can result in more affordable means to reach the city poor with healthy food,” said Eugenia Serova, head of FAO’s Agro-Industry Division.

“If close to 90 percent of the expected increase in the global urban population in the next two decades will take place in cities in Africa and Asia, it makes much sense to build solid knowledge on how to strengthen urban market systems,” she added.

WUWM’s global network connects wholesale marketers in 43 countries, making it an ideal partner in collecting data that will result in a series of reports and activities targeted at helping wholesalers find new ways to improve efficiencies, ensure better supplies of quality produce, and cut down on waste. These include improving storing techniques and finding alternative ways to use damaged and excess products.

The new collaboration with wholesale markets adds to FAO’s ongoing work on food loss and waste through its Save Food Initiative and its work on urban food security. In addition to increasing the available information on wholesale food trade, the new partnership will focus on developing skills and policies to reduce waste and allow wholesalers to share this knowledge globally.

Photo: ©FAO/Asim Hafeez
Tomatoes for sale at Sabzi Mandi, a wholesale fruits and vegetable market in Multan.