LONDON, ENGLAND — Regional investors, producers and decision-makers in agribusiness, including retailers, vowed to work on transforming the agribusiness sector by tackling volatility in production and prices, at the 6th International Conference of FMCG, Retail and Agribusiness Industry, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said.

Aiming to establish new cooperation and develop markets in central Europe and southeastern Europe (CSEE), as well as globally, the EBRD and Infoareana held the conference in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the International Finance Cooperation (IFC), in the Vienna, Austria.

The opening panel addressed how the trade system can overcome obstacles and support the market growth of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), agribusiness and retail. Panelists also focused on how to overcome the effects of global challenges – such as climate change and demographics – on the value chain, as well as how to make the agribusiness sector, including retail, resilient and sustainable.

Over the next five years, the EBRD aims to develop significantly the potential of the private sector to bolster food security, promote higher standards, help the sustainable development of the sector and exchange knowledge.

“This region is important to us, and that is why we have invested more than €6.5 billion in it,” said Sylvia Gansser-Potts, EBRD managing director for central and southeastern Europe. “We are working to create a good balance between large and small companies. In cooperation with banks we are trying to develop projects that will provide cheaper capital for small business projects. We encourage all countries to take advantage of the money they have at their disposal in order to help their economies.”

“The links between food and business are important for the economies of less-developed transition countries that depend on rural areas,” said Miljan Ždrale, head of agribusiness for CSEE at the EBRD. “This conference is an opportunity to share knowledge and experience that helps us choose the best tools to develop the agribusiness sector.”

Josef Schmidhuber, deputy director of statistics at FAO, pointed out that until the middle of this century the world will face many problems.

“The most important drivers of food production are population growth, urbanization and an ageing population,” said Schmidhuber. “The world will not double its population during that time, but the impact of the energy sector, the production of biomass and biofuels, as well as the demand for more value-added food products, will significantly alter the image of the agribusiness sector globally.”

Over the last five years the EBRD and Infoarena have developed the FRA ARENA Conference and business community network, for sustainable development and investment in the agribusiness, retail and FMCG sector in southeastern Europe.

To date the EBRD has invested over €2 billion in the agribusiness sector of CSEE, the EBRD said.