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Friday 03 December 2021

APEC 2021: Govt, food producer partnership key to meeting challenges – FIA’s Matt Kovac

15th November 2021 By Staff Reporter | | @foodtickernz

Food producers are increasingly putting sustainability at the core of their operations but feeding populations must also be a partnership between the private sector and government, says Food Industry Asia executive director Matt Kovac.

Speaking at the APEC CEO Summit 2021 on Friday, which New Zealand hosted as part of the virtual APEC 2021 event last week, Kovac said food producers faced a number of challenges across the region. Singapore-based FIA represents the interests of more than 50 food and beverage businesses across Asia.

The key to tackling issues that arise out of changing demographics, evolving tastes and markets, increasing food insecurity and climate change was through partnership.

“The food industry has to grapple with all these issues and do its job, which is growing food and producing it and supplying it to consumers,” said Kovac.  

“Obviously governments have a massive job to do. They would have a role at how to look at lowering the environmental impact of food production and how you limit waste and to do this not just in consultation with industry but it has to be done in partnership.”

Food and forestry production were estimated to contribute up to a third of total global greenhouse gas emissions and were also significant users of freshwater resources so producers recognised the need for change, Kovac said.

With the global population estimated to grow from 7.8bn last year to more than 10bn by 2050, “more food will need to be produced using less of everything, with the added challenge that sustainable food products still need to be nutrient dense to allow people to have that balanced, diverse diet”.

“We define it (sustainable food production) as a method that uses processes and systems that are non-polluting as much as we possibly can do, conserving non-renewable energy and natural resources,” he said.

“That has to be economically efficient and safe for workers and consumers, and all the while not compromising the needs of future generations.”

Kovac added that food and beverage companies were making progress to become more sustainable:

  • Danone had invested $40m in achieving 100% carbon neutrality in one of its New Zealand plants.
  • Unilever planned to cut by 50% food waste from factory to shelf by 2025, five years sooner than a previous commitment.
  • Nestlé was working with Food Industry Asia and other companies to establish a circular materials laboratory in Singapore, focusing on research into next generation environmentally sustainable packaging.

Kovac said the key to meeting the food sector’s challenges was collaboration.

“The economics that approach collaboration in our opinion will inevitably be more successful than those who think of working with the private sector as an afterthought,” he said.

“It is essential for business and government to work together to feed populations.” 

The two-day APEC 2021 concluded on Friday.



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