Rome, Italy, September 30, 2021 – As part of this year WTO Public Forum, the World Farmers’ Organisation hosted the virtual event “Rethinking trade and value chains sustainably to benefit both farmers and consumers, while bringing them closers”.

Under the WTO 2021 Public Forum theme ‘Trade beyond COVID-19: Building Resilience’,  the WFO session focused on how better linking farmers and consumers along the Food Vale Chain to drive actions towards sustainable trade.

The panel featured the participation of WFO President Theo de Jager, Doaa Abdel-Motaal, Senior Counsellor at WTO, Nandini Azad, President of the Indian Co-operative Network for Women Limited and Working Women’s Forum and Carmelo Troccoli, Director of Campagna Amica and World Coalition of Farmers Markets. Paolo Di Stefano, Head of EU and International Affairs, Coldiretti, and Facilitator of the WFO Working Group on Value Chain, moderated the session.

Driving towards a sustainable trade for all

The panellists explored the delicate connections between farmers, consumers and trade, focusing on the evidence that connecting farmers to consumers directly can help more sustainable production and consumption patterns, both in long and short value chains.
On this basis, speakers engaged in an open and fruitful exchange on the actions to drive towards sustainable trade.

Digitalisation is amplifying the competition in our market, and this is shaking the foundation of our definition of food security,” – stated WFO President Theo de Jager – “Food security today means that you produce enough of that in which you have a competitive advantage. Trade has become part of the very definition of food security, but for that, to anchor food security, we need a few basic rules. WTO is, from a farmer’s perspective, our last line of defence.”

The time has come for us as farmers to stop complaining and to take our destiny in our hands to engage with an institution as WTO and see how we can design solutions which will be tailor-made to the interest of those who sit with their fingers in the soil,” WFO President pointed out.

International trade needs to be strengthened to ensure global food security, but without forgetting that consumers increasingly value local food. Therefore, trans-border trade systems should coexist with the local ones for small and family farmers to get revenues and continue producing.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that we need to shift towards more efficient and sustainable markets and trade. Still, we can achieve those goals by understanding what farmers and consumers want and need.

Producers and consumers at the centre of sustainable rethinking about trade

Farmers want trade rules to be clear, fair, and transparent. Consumers ask for “quality”, “competitive prices”, and “reliable information” about what they eat.

Sustainability in the food value chain is a responsibility of all stakeholders in the food chain. It starts from putting farmers and consumers needs at the centre of all the policies and approaches.

Standards will always be part of the competitiveness and will always go higher and higher, and farmers know they have to do better. As WFO, we commit to take hands much stronger with WTO not only to convey the message of the farmers but also to get WTO advice.