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Background paper: facilitating trade to feed the world

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With almost a billion people going hungry, it may appear as though hunger is one of the persistent scourges of the world. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), approximately 795 million people are undernourished, of which 780 million live in developing countries.1 At the same time, numerous studies have demonstrated that there is more than enough food on the planet to feed the entire world population.

The 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. In addition to the
food itself, the labour, water, energy and other resources used for its production are also wasted. In view of the growing world population, increasing levels of consumption, and emerging challenges in food production, reduction of food loss is an important factor in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Supply chain inefficiencies that prevent food that is produced from reaching buyers are sometimes overlooked as a key reason for lack of access to food. Such inefficiencies include costly and time-consuming import/export procedures that prevent or reduce access to markets, resulting in perishable goods that rot 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 United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) is focussed on the simplification, standardization and harmonization of procedures and associated information flows required to move goods from seller to buyer and to make payment. The implementation of UN/CEFACT recommendations and standards helps countries to engage in and benefit from global, efficient and cost-effective trade. These benefits include: the economic prosperity and growth needed to eradicate poverty and hunger; more diversity and availability of food in markets; as well as improved economic accessibility to food