Cologne: 23.–26.02.2027 #AnugaFoodTec2027

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Technology and knowledge transfer

Globalisation as an opportunity for increased sustainability

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As part of the UN system, UNIDO ITPO Germany mobilises investments and technologies for sustainable industrial development. Olaf Deutschbein, head of ITPO Germany’s Berlin office, explains on the basis of worldwide cooperation projects why increased productivity and sustainability can only be achieved through innovations and knowledge transfer – particularly in close collaboration with European and globally operating companies.


What would UNIDO like to see from food and beverage industry suppliers when you think of Anuga FoodTec 2024’s guiding theme of ‘Responsibility’?

It’s great that Anuga FoodTec 2024 has picked up on the guiding theme of responsibility. That matches UNIDO’s mandate for promoting sustainable industrial development, meaning assuming responsibility for humans and nature in production, particularly at the start of supply chains, in developing countries. Because sustainable supply chains are important for the economic development of the Global South.

The food industry is the world’s biggest industrial sector. It can make a very significant contribution to climate protection, sustainability and fair production conditions around the globe. I’m certain that all of the exhibitors will have seen the need to act responsibly. And will have noticed that this involves major business opportunities. However, I am also certain that there are different opinions about how exactly we should assume responsibility.

From the perspective of UNIDO, I would like to see the issue of responsibility being taken into consideration even more consistently by supply chain management and suppliers. This means developing a good plan in order to recognise and prevent risks in individual sectors or regions. And also making changes in the event of a violation, because globalisation can only be successful if it leads to joint development and sustainability instead of quick profit maximisation and ultimately even to exploitation.

Also, companies that invest in reliable, sustainable supply chains often get through external crises better, as shown by the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to a higher level of trust and stable business relationships, such companies were able to ramp their production up again faster.

In the opinion of UNIDO, how can food and beverage industry suppliers contribute to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

In various ways. What is probably the most important starting point is to stop child labour – and that has a great deal to do with wages and overcoming poverty, Sustainable Development Goal number 1. But many jobs in developing countries barely pay enough to survive on. Take cocoa for chocolate, for example. A family of seven in Cote d’Ivoire, from where around 50 percent of Germany’s imported raw cocoa come, often only makes around 100 euros a month from growing cocoa. The situation is no better in other areas. As a consequence of this poverty, hundreds of thousands of children are forced to work, including on cocoa plantations. At the expense of their childhood, their education, their future. These problems need to be tackled first of all.

There are good approaches. To stick to the example of cocoa, the German food industry, civil society and the German government have joined forces in the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa in order to improve the living standards of cocoa producers and their families, specifically those of 30,000 family-run farms.

The German Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains aims to regulate this in binding terms…

The question is how can we ensure that global supply chains become more sustainable and fairer? In addition to voluntary measures such as the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa or the German Forum for Sustainable Palm Oil, a bundle of measures also requires binding standards. What it doesn’t involve, however, is establishing Europe’s social standards all over the world. It is concerned with adhering to fundamental human rights such as the ban on forced and child labour in the supply chains. This is regulated in binding terms by the law for all major companies. This goes hand in hand with a duty of effort: as a company, I have to analyse where problems could crop up in my supply chain, implement improvements and follow up on violations. Whoever demonstrably makes an effort need not fear any sanctions in the event of a violation.

Which challenges do you foresee in worldwide implementation?

The law will lead to new internal processes, so it is understandable that medium-sized companies are concerned whether they will be able to cope. Firstly, however, the regulations only apply to companies with at least 1,000 employees. The new EU Directive will not lead to any changes in this regard. Instead, SMEs will now be better protected against major company groups passing these obligations on. Secondly, numerous companies have been proving for years that it works in economic terms.

I can foresee a further challenge in the fact that suppliers in developing countries will be left alone to deal with the new regulations. The EU, the United Nations and the companies should therefore support them and develop joint solutions for increased sustainability in supply chains. In my opinion, that includes affordable loans for necessary construction and investment measures as well as support with management and reporting tasks. This is exactly what UNIDO is committed to doing. This support would also lead to increased acceptance of the regulations.

How else can the food and beverage industry and its suppliers contribute to ending starvation around the globe?

The first step is more productive agriculture. In Europe, a farmer achieves an average of eight tonnes of cereals per hectare. In Africa, that figure is just 1.5 tonnes. What’s needed here is varieties that are adapted to the climate, better cultivation methods or the introduction of adapted agricultural machinery. Four out of five African farmers still cultivate their land by hand; a motor-driven hoe is pretty much regarded as high-tech. In this respect, the food industry has initiated a great deal to improve productivity. For instance, this includes initiatives to strengthen farming structures by establishing collaborations, cooperatives and machinery rings according to the motto of jointly producing and selling and thereby increasing the availability of good quality. In this respect, for example, UNIDO has set up a Coffee Training Center together with an Italian company in order to promote the processing of coffee and teach best practices to 30,000 Ethiopian coffee farmers.

The next step is to establish a processing industry – more local value creation. The African continent still imports $50 billion worth of processed food a year although Africa is rich in agricultural products. In Kenia, for example, a mango juice factory has been built using German know-how and offers tens of thousands of mango farmers a regular income.

Thirdly, food quality and certification support is also needed so that these products can reach Europe. UNIDO is focusing on all of these points in order to get the necessary technologies to the Global South.

Why are technology and knowledge transfer and investment partnerships between industrial nations and developing countries so fundamentally important?

Because they allow us to initiate giant leaps – even with simple things such as modern silos so that less cereal rots after harvesting. It is important to note that the knowledge and the technology for a world without hunger are available worldwide. But we have to make them even more widely available, through multilateral platforms.

Only then can we exploit the potentials in the agrotech sector and drive training and adapted technologies forwards in the countries in the Global South. This is why the African Union and UNIDO will be conducting a major agricultural conference in Ethiopia in November – for worldwide cooperation projects with the food industry, the food sector and investors. Because increased productivity and sustainability can only be achieved through innovation and knowledge transfer, particularly in close collaboration with European and globally operating companies. And, of course, it shouldn’t be forgotten that this also offers enormous opportunities for exporting food processing technologies.

In Germany, interested companies can contact the UNIDO Investment and Technology Promotion Office with regard to joint projects on the ground concerning training, agricultural cooperation or the application of labour and environmental standards at supplier companies.

©Olaf Deutschbein

©Olaf Deutschbein


The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) supports sustainable industrial development in developing and emerging countries with a particular focus on resource-saving and environmentally friendly technologies and production processes.

The German UNIDO Office for Investment Promotion and Technology Transfer (ITPO Germany), based in Berlin and Bonn, has the mandate to strengthen and promote investment promotion and the transfer of sustainable technologies from Germany and Europe to developing and newly industrialising countries, with a particular focus on the markets in sub-Saharan Africa.

How to reach UNIDO in Germany:

Friedrichstr. 95
+49 178 6965777
10117 Berlin, Germany

Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1
53113 Bonn, Germany
+ 49 (0) 228 815-0550