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World Union of Wholesale Markets Teams Up With UN to Fight Food Waste in Cities

Tomatoes for sale at Sabzi Mandi

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

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Union of Wholesale Markets have just signed a partnership aimed at reaching the urban poor and reducing food waste estimated at 1.3 billion tonnes every year. The project recognizes the growing challenge of feeding city dwellers, who will become the world's majority by 2050.

"More efficient wholesale markets, and overall urban market outlets, can result in more affordable means to reach the city poor with healthy food," Eugenia Serova, head of FAO's Agro-Industry Division said in a press release issued last week in Budapest, Hungary, where the partnership agreement was being signed.

"If close to 90 per cent 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," according to Ms. Serova.

FAO said the partnership with the wholesalers, who function as brokers who sell agricultural goods purchased directly from producers in bulk to businesses and resellers, is aimed to promote sustainability and inclusiveness in the wholesale sector, including developing "best practices" for reducing food waste.

"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," the agency said.

According to FAO, 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 says it estimates that over 40 per cent of root crops, fruits and vegetables are lost wasted, along with 35 per cent of fish, 30 per cent of cereals and 20 per cent of meat and dairy products, and 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," it said.

The World Union of Wholesale Markets network connects wholesale marketers in 43 countries, according to FAO, 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.