FAO launches the UN’s International Year of Fruits & Vegetables 2021
A means to improve nutrition & reduce food loss & waste, says Director-General
15 December 2020, Rome – The Director-General of the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, today launched the International Year of Fruits & Vegetables 2021 (IYFV) with an appeal to improve healthy & sustainable food production through innovation & technology & to reduce food loss & waste.
Proclaimed at the 74th session the UN General Assembly, IYFV 2021 is dedicated to raising awareness about the important role of fruits & vegetables in human nutrition, food security & health.
FAO, the lead agency for celebrating the year in collaboration with other organizations, launched the year with an international virtual event.
Speaking at the event the FAO Director-General described the initiative as “a unique opportunity to raise global awareness”. He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had challenged people to find new ways of fighting hunger & malnutrition & said IYFV would highlight the role of digital technologies in improving nutrition & market opportunities.
“In the current health crisis we are facing around the world, promoting healthy diets to strengthen our immune systems is especially appropriate,” Qu said.
While noting the challenges in improving production & agri-food chains, the FAO Director-General encouraged countries to see the International Year as an opportunity to improve infrastructure, farming practices thereby supporting small scale farmers. He emphasized fruits & vegetables were a good way for farmers to create cash crops.
In his message UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, called for a more “holistic approach” to nutrition & sustainability noting next year’s Food Systems Summit would also be an opportunity to consider the fragility of food systems.
Chile played the lead role in the proclamation of IYFV & the country’s Minister for Agriculture, Antonio Walker, told the event there were many challenges in promoting healthy eating habits while calling for co-ordinated action to curb malnutrition.
Teresa Bellanova, Italy’s Minister of Agricultural, Food & Forestry Policies, said her country was ready to share its knowledge & experience in sustainable production as the country marked the 10th anniversary of UNESCO’s recognition of the Mediterranean diet as a cultural treasure.
Helena Leurent, the Director-General of Consumers International, which represents 200 consumer organizations around the world, said it was critical for consumers to have the right to a fair, safe & sustainable marketplace & to be actively involved in how it is shaped in the future.
Fruits & vegetables are good sources of dietary fiber, vitamins & minerals & beneficial phytochemicals. FAO & the World Health Organization recommend that each adult consumes at least 400 grams of fruit & vegetables on a daily basis to prevent chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease & obesity, as well as to counter micronutrient deficiencies.
With the COVID-19 pandemic the need to transform & rebalance the way our food is produced & consumed has only been further stressed.
The FAO Director-General noted that food loss & waste in the fruits & vegetables sector remains a problem with considerable consequences, & that “innovative technologies & approaches are of critical importance”, as “they can help maintaining safety & quality, increasing the shelf life of fresh produce items & preserving their high nutritional value”.
Food loss & waste reduction improves food security & nutrition, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, lowers pressure on water & land resources & can increase productivity & economic growth.
Up to 50 percent of fruits & vegetables produced in developing countries are lost in the supply chain between harvest & consumption.
Advocacy for fresh produce is consistent with the aim of strengthening the role of smallholder & family farmers, & fosters broader market options for millions of rural families. Gender equity opportunities are also noteworthy, as women often play leading roles for their households in both the production & consumption of fruit & vegetables.
The International Year of Fruits & Vegetables 2021 falls within the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025) & the UN Decade of Family Farming (UNDFF 2019-2028). These observances reinforce each other while providing greater visibility to small-scale producers & raise awareness on food security & nutrition.
FAO celebrated the first ever observance of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss & Waste on 29 September 2020.