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Wal-Mart To Boost Buying From Small And Local Farms

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is planning to double the sales of fresh produce from local farms in its U. S. stores by the end of 2015, part of a strategy to revamp its global produce supply chain.

The world’s largest retailer said it would also sell more than $1 billion each year in food from one million small and medium-size farms in emerging markets by the end of 2015. That would help increase income for those farmers by 10 per cent to 15 per cent in the same time frame, Wal-Mart said.

In the United States, Wal-Mart said its plans for supporting local agriculture would lift local produce to nine per cent of total produce sales in the country. Wal-Mart does not give a dollar figure for total produce sales.

Wal-Mart also said it will require that palm oil from sustainable sources be used in all of its private-label products by the end of 2015. The company sells hundreds of products that use palm oil. Environmentalists argue some producers add to global warming by felling forests.

Using locally sourced agriculture and supporting small farms is one way to preserve local jobs and prevent dwindling farmland from being lost, according to environmentalists and other groups. It can also help reduce the use of resources such as fuel to transport food over long distances.

Wal-Mart has sought to reduce the environmental harm posed by its business by pushing suppliers to cut package sizes and encouraging consumers to buy energy-efficient light bulbs. It has also cut down on fossil fuels in its supply chain.

The moves have helped Wal- Mart improve an image tarnished by accusations of unfair treatment of employees and the threat its stores pose to small local retail businesses.

As part of the plan announced on Oct. 16, Wal-Mart said it will spend more than $1 billion on improvements in its global fresh supply chain to move fresh food to stores more quickly.

Wal-Mart aims to reduce food waste in emerging market stores by 15 per cent and in stores in other markets by 10 per cent by 2015.

The company is also looking to help protect the Amazon rainforest by only buying beef from producers who do not contribute to deforestation, Wal-Mart said.

The Brazilian government, at the prompting of conservationists, has cracked down in recent years on slaughterhouses that buy cattle raised on illegally deforested pasture in the Amazon. The industry has been slowly moving toward ear tag chips to expand traceability to most of the country’s roughly 200 million head of cattle.

The plans were announced by Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke at the company’s sustainability milestone meeting.

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