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Private sector development and nutrition

Although the public sector is responsible for targeted provision of supplements and services to the poorest of the poor, the private sector is where most people access products and services to meet most of their needs. In other words, the private sector should ideally be the gateway for people to access healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

The SUN movement acknowledges that inclusion of the private sector in efforts to improve nutrition sustainably and at scale, because:
• "Private sector engagement will bring specific capabilities and expertise and innovative approaches and technologies to nutrition efforts."
• "Responsible market-based approaches are needed to provide sustained access to effective and affordable nutritious products and services at scale to entire populations. Appropriate consumer education and promotion of nutritious products will help caretakers make informed choices when providing nutrition, hygiene, and health to their families."

Positive implications for the private sector

Including the private sector in efforts to improve access to and intake of nutritious foods in developing countries and emerging economies is not only in the best interest of sustainably improving nutrition status. An improved nutrition status of people in vaklue chains that suffer from under-nutrition is also in the interest of the private sector. Higher labor output through improved nutrition, for example, can be stimulated on local, regional and national level and on each of these levels benefit private employers, as production through labor is higher without costs increasing. 

In agricultural value chains like cocoa, coffee and tea, which have been plagued by declining productivity levels, such an opportunity to increase productivity can have a significant impact. Both for the companies that are sourcing these commodities in developing countries as well as farmers and their households will possibly benefit from a multiplier effect, as improved dietary diversity will enable them to enjoy better health as well as a higher income resulting from increased production.

The risk to invest in countries that are suffering from high rates of under-nutrition in, particularly, rural areas has been reduced over the past decades. Because it is in the same countries that trends in economic development and growing markets offer opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors, both domestic and foreign.

Direct interventions in which the private sector would be able to play a key role in stimulating improved nutrition status:

• Reduce ingredients costs through efficient supply chain, which would improve access to healthy food through lower prices.
• Develop appealing & effective behavioural change campaigns to raise public awareness and create demand for nutritious foods
• Develop and produce affordable and cost-effective fortified foods, lipid-based nutrient supplements micronutrient powders and ready-to use therapeutic/supplementary foods
• Use of distribution networks to increase availability and affordability of nutritious products