Agri-food sector

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…this sector is of key concern for developing countries and at the very core of sustainable development strategies in those countries.

A focus on the agricultural sector was prioritized, since the UN Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) can build from a considerable amount of research conducted by collaborating organizations in this area. In addition, this sector is of key concern for developing countries and at the very core of sustainable development strategies in those countries. Like in no other sector, VSS in the agricultural sector have potential to address all three pillars of sustainable development, by

  1. creating many job- and income-generating opportunities for small-scale farmers (in growing and lucrative markets for sustainably produced food) with fairer prices and better working conditions;
  2. using less external-input intensive production methods (such as agro-ecological and organic practices) that reflect in a holistic way the multi-functionality of agriculture and guarantee the regenerative capacity of the key production conditions (in particular preserving soil fertility, enhancing closed nutrient cycles and minimizing GHG emissions); and
  3. using less mono-cropping and more diversified and integrated agricultural production which increases resilience to climate change and supports biodiversity.

Besides, it has to be taken into account that the agricultural sector in developing countries has become highly export dependent which makes compliance with new requirements set by players in sustainability markets non-negotiable for many countries as export opportunities and market prices determine the livelihood of the rural populations, which in many cases represent the majority of the population in developing countries.

Many private sector standard initiatives already exist in this area, for example GLOBALGAP (Good Agricultural Practice), the 4C Association Code of Conduct for the Coffee Community (sustainable coffee), the Union for Ethical BioTrade Verification Framework, the Better Sugar Cane Initiative, Starbucks CAFE Practices Program, the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Network, UTZ Certified, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the Marine Stewardship Council Standards, the Ethical Tea Partnership or FairTrade and Organic standards.

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