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Unilever leads call on food security at G20 Summit

CEO Paul Polman is spearheading a group of business leaders from the fast-moving consumer goods industry and international non-governmental organisations, calling for action on food security.

Improving livelihoods

As co-chair of the B-20 Food Security Task Force along with Daniel Servitje, Chief Executive of Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo, Paul has set out recommendations for a 50% increase in food production and productivity by 2030, while improving the livelihoods of millions of farmers.

The B-20 Food Security Task Force is part of the Business-20 Summit (B20), an international forum which encourages dialogue between the global business community and governments in the G20.

The task force has identified five priority areas in which governments and businesses should work together on developing sustainable food and nutrition security programmes. They are:

  • Increasing investment in agricultural productivity
  • Improving market function
  • Ensuring more sustainable food production (including water resource management)
  • Accelerating access to technology
  • Integrating and prioritising nutritional needs

With a growing world population, estimates suggest that global food production needs to increase 70% by 2050. At the same time diminishing levels of natural resources and the effects of climate change are posing ever greater challenges to the agricultural industry.

Smallholder farmers

Paul says: “Going forward, farmers will have to double the annual yield increase – and we need to reach out to 500 million smallholder farms who produce most of the agricultural output in developing countries.”

Recommendations include targeted programmes to provide farmers, many of whom are women, with the skills they need to increase their productivity and income.

More work is also needed to help countries which struggle to produce enough food to feed their growing populations.

Sustainable agricultural goods

Paul says: “We need to make it easier to transport goods from suppliers and to promote the development of local sourcing, which helps to develop local markets and reduce urban migration.

“We need trade policies that increase the exchange of sustainable agricultural goods. Reducing trade-distorting support and protection could provide significant opportunities for farmers while expanding consumers’ access to affordable foods.”

This action would require a huge commitment from governments to improve essential infrastructure and help to reduce waste in the value chain.

Companies are also investing, with $15 billion committed to helping boost agricultural productivity by 50% by 2030.

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