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SHAFFE Congress Keynote Highlights UN Year of Fruits and Vegetables

April 22, 2021

The inaugural Southern Hemisphere Fruit Trade Congress took place virtually on March 25, highlighting the key priorities of the Southern Hemisphere Association of Fresh Fruit Exporters (SHAFFE) for 2021–2023. The congress was centered around the theme of “Keeping the World Supplied” and featured a keynote speech by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol, putting the spotlight on the U.N. International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021.

Addressing the 615 registered congress participants via Zoom, Bechdol emphasized the importance of the fruit and vegetable sector to worldwide food security and health outcomes. “When we think of healthy eating, the first foods that often come to mind are fruits and vegetables,” said Bechdol in the opening of her keynote address. “They provide important nutrients and vitamins and are essential for human health, and as high value crops, they have great income-generating potential. They also benefit the entire food system and can contribute vitally to the achievement of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.”

Bechdol underlined the importance of looking at the fruit and vegetable sector as part of a holistic system, examining some of the ways in which this past year’s events have exposed the fragility of global supply chains and the food system as a whole. The effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic have had wide-reaching impacts on the sector, including production, transport, distribution and trade. The knock-on effects of the pandemic have also posed significant challenges to the sector, ranging from border closures, widespread port congestion and container shortages to reduced demand resulting from the loss of consumer income and the closure of venues such as schools, restaurants and hotels.

“COVID-19 has shown us the critical importance of dynamic, responsive logistical systems to distribute fruit and vegetables efficiently while safeguarding their quality and satisfying safety standards,” said Bechdol. “The pandemic has also demonstrated the need for resilient domestic and international trade infrastructures, enabled through efficient public–private partnerships.”

Bechdol highlighted some of the ongoing U.N initiatives to address this need, including the 2021 U.N. Food Systems Summit, the World Banana Forum and notably the FAO’s International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021. This year-long campaign was announced in December of 2019 and was officially launched at the beginning of this year. According to Bechdol, the IYFV 2021 aims to raise awareness on the important roles of fruits and vegetables in food security, human nutrition, health and income generation, to achieve the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The initiative highlights “the need for innovation, improved technologies and infrastructure to increase productivity and efficiency of fruit and vegetable supply chains.” The Food Systems Summit and many other IYFV events planned throughout 2021 are aimed at fostering dialogue between industry stakeholders at all levels, including policymakers, trade organizations such as SHAFFE, and businesses of all sizes. The Sustainable Development Goals highlighted by the IYFV 2021 campaign include reducing environmental impact and food waste, improving livelihoods for small-scale farmers and delivering better nutritional outcomes throughout the world.

Bechdol also directed participants towards the dedicated IYFV website, which provides further details regarding the initiative and will also promote a comprehensive publication throughout the year entitled “Fruits and Vegetables: Opportunities and Challenges for Small-Scale Sustainable Farming.”

In addition to the IYFV initiative, Bechdol also drew attention to the FAO elearning Academy, a free resource that offers over 350 multilingual self-paced e-learning courses, accessible online or in downloadable format. The courses cover a broad range of topics related to food and agriculture and can benefit professionals working in areas such as food and nutrition security, social and economic development, and sustainable management of natural resources.

Bechdol stated that the FAO’s strategic framework was important “because it puts at its very center the priority of leaving no-one behind, through more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient food systems based on four aspirational ‘betters’: better production, better nutrition, better environment and a better life.”

The full recording of the 2021 congress programming, including Bechdol’s keynote address, can be viewed on the SHAFFE website.

SHAFFE was founded in 1991 and is currently made up of the leading trade associations in the produce sector from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa and Uruguay.

Image: SHAFFE

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