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UN/CEFACT standards support the development of sustainable agriculture

With almost a billion people going hungry (795 million people are undernourished according to FAO), hunger is one of the persistent scourges of the world. At the same time, there is more than enough food on the planet to feed the entire world population. FAO estimates that one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally; this amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year. Supply chain inefficiencies that prevent food from reaching buyers are often overlooked. Such inefficiencies include costly and time-consuming import/export procedures that prevent or reduce access to markets, resulting in perishable goods rotting at borders while awaiting clearance. Indeed, Sustainable Development Goal 2 explicitly targets the elimination of “trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets” to fight hunger and achieve food security.

The implementation of UN/CEFACT Trade Facilitation Recommendations and e-Business standards helps countries to engage in and benefit from global, efficient and cost-effective trade. This fosters economic growth needed to eradicate poverty and hunger; more diversity, availability and safety of food in markets; as well as improved economic accessibility to food. These issues were at the centre of the discussions today at the Conference on Sustainable Agriculture organized as part of the 29th Forum of the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and e-Business (UN/CEFACT), which gathered experts from UNECE, ITC, the EU, WTO and the Government of Netherlands.

Agricultural production and food trade are increasingly subject to sanitary requirements and regulations on food safety. Further, consumers are paying more and more attention to requirements concerning product and production processes, including on their environmental and social impacts. All these regulations, requirements and specifications respond to increasing demand for transparency and traceability of products and their production.

To address such demand, it is crucial to use full identifiers for locations, products (goods, animals, plants) and parties involved in the trade. In addition, there is a need for uniform coding systems to specify information about agriculture input, process and output. Finally, there is a need for standards supporting the information exchange in the agriculture–food chain.

UN/CEFACT has developed and published many standards, which provide a framework for the global and regional supply of safe and sustainable food. Today’s conference provided participants with an overview of the potentials of this framework along with practices and experiences in their use. More specifically, it focused on activities that contribute to sustainable food production and effective traceability.

More information is available at http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=45340#