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Innovating Food Distribution Systems and Markets


Food supply and distribution are complex systems of activities, functions and relations (production, handling, storage, transport, process, package, wholesale, retail, etc.) enabling populations to meet their food requirements. These activities are performed by different actors: producers, assemblers, importers, transporters, wholesalers, retailers, processors, shopkeepers, street vendors, service providers (credit, storage, porterage, information and extension), packaging suppliers, public institutions (e.g. city and local governments, public food marketing boards, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Transport) and private associations (e.g. traders, transporters, shopkeepers and consumers).

These actors need infrastructure, facilities, services and laws as well as formal and informal regulations to govern their decisions, where each element influences other elements in a system of cause and effect, and reciprocal relationships.

The goal of food distribution is not only to connect the producers, such as farmers and fishermen, to consumers, but also to allocate food accordingly. Challenges arise in deciding how the food will be distributed among the people, who has the power of distribution, and what methods should be used for distribution.

In low-income countries current problems include, lack of markets, the inadequacy of transportation to markets, and the inability to afford the costs of production and consumption. Rural populations in low-income countries are hit particularly hard, with 16% of rural populations lacking convenient access to a market and only one-third of farmers selling their crops. Transportation is often very limited with few high quality roads or railways to transport goods and people to the centralized markets. Transportation routes are expensive and require public funding and maintenance.  

Historically, international trade has helped reduce food insecurity and diversified consumer access to nutritious foods by connecting regions with limited agricultural output to regions with increased agricultural production. However, for trade to improve food security for the greatest number of people, greater international cooperation is necessary to create a fair and market-oriented agricultural trading system. 


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