Economic Committee Is Told Strategy Urgently Needed to Meet Worsening Global Food Crisis; Aid, Trade Adjustments Among Proposals Offered

23 October 2009
GA/EF/3254

Economic Committee Is Told Strategy Urgently Needed to Meet Worsening Global Food Crisis; Aid, Trade Adjustments Among Proposals Offered

23 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/EF/3254
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Second Committee

20th & 21st Meetings (AM & PM)

Economic Committee Is Told Strategy Urgently Needed to Meet Worsening

Global Food Crisis; Aid, Trade Adjustments Among Proposals Offered

Huge Challenge Posed by Predicted Population Growth in Years Ahead

In a world where 1 billion people already suffered from chronic hunger, global food supplies must increase by 50 per cent to meet expected demand from a growing world population, the United States delegate told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today, as the Committee concluded its consideration of agriculture development and food security.

To counter the crisis and promote agriculture-led economic growth in the developing world, the United States had said it would commit at least $3.5 billion over the next three years -- a powerful task for reducing hunger and poverty.

The representative of Pakistan said the economic crisis was rapidly turning into a catastrophe for the world’s poor because developing countries now had fewer resources to maintain social safety nets or to provide food, health and education to vulnerable populations.  In Pakistan, where half the population already faced food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), there had been a dramatic and unacceptable rise in the number of people in that condition over the past two years, driven by the economic, food and fuel crises as well as climate change effects.

Mexico’s representative, speaking for the Rio Group of countries, expressed concern that the recent lowering of prices of food and commodities from earlier peaks conveyed the impression that the food crisis effectively had been solved, but that was not the case; given the current challenges, action to ensure the eradication of hunger had to be both urgent and comprehensive.  Development efforts should include significantly scaled up public and private investment in agriculture, the monitoring of existing assistance commitments and the eradication of speculative practices, among other factors.

The Swedish representative, speaking for the European Union, said that food security was a crucial requirement for countries to prosper:  the fact that one out of six human beings in the world suffered from hunger and malnourishment was unacceptable, a situation that had to be addressed immediately.  The European Union for its part had increased the share of the agricultural sector in the official development assistance (ODA) considerably, and he called on all donors to do the same. 

A number of delegates pointed out the paradox that there was enough food to feed the world’s population yet people still went hungry, and some criticized the subsidies and tariffs imposed by the developed world, which skewed global trade and hindered equitable access to international markets for farmers in poorer countries.

Speaking in the general discussion were the representatives of Guyana (for the Caribbean Community), Malawi (for the Southern African Development Community), Columbia, China, Guatemala, Peru, Philippines, Algeria, Ukraine, Cuba, Japan, Republic of Korea, Israel, Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Russian Federation, Ethiopia, Canada, Belarus, Thailand, Libya, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Argentina, Afghanistan, Chile, Venezuela and Senegal.

The Permanent Observer for the Holy See also made a statement, as did representatives of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Common Fund for Commodities.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., on Monday, 26 October, to hold a panel discussion on green growth and sustainable development.

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to continue its debate on agriculture development and food security.  For background, see Press Release GA/EF/3253 of 22 October 2009.)

Introduction of Draft Resolution

At the outset of the meeting and before the debate, JOSÉ ALBERTO BRIZ GUTIÉRREZ ( Guatemala), also speaking on behalf of 21 other countries, introduced a draft resolution on legal empowerment of the poor and eradication of poverty (document A/C.2/64/L.4).  He said the draft took note of the broad diversity of national experiences and initiatives to advance legal empowerment of the poor as part of efforts to eradicate poverty.  It also recognized the important role of South-South cooperation, and requested that the Secretary-General promote stronger coherence on the part of the United Nations system to integrate that concept into policies and strategies.

Statements

JAKOB STRÖM (Sweden), speaking for the European Union, said that food security was a crucial requirement for countries to prosper and that the fact that one out of six human beings in the world suffered from hunger and malnourishment was unacceptable, and it must be addressed immediately.  The European Union had considerably increased the share of the agricultural sector in the official development assistance (ODA), and called on all donors to do the same.  Last year, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted regulation to establish a 1 billion euros “Food Facility”, and already, 700 million euros had been dedicated for various projects.  Furthermore, the member States of the Union would contribute 10.2 billion dollars towards a 20 billion dollars initiative on the Group of Eight (G-8) to promote sustainable agricultural development.

To develop the agricultural sector in the developing world, he said, a broad range of efforts was needed; these would include improving farming techniques and paying more attention to the role of women in agriculture and their specific needs.  Trade was also a vital component and the European Union strongly supported the conclusion of the Doha Round in 2010.  He added that open trade flows and efficient markets were important tools for economic growth and the improvement of food security.  With regard to food aid, it was pivotal that it did not disrupt normal markets and food production and that, whenever possible, it was advisable that food aid was procured locally to support local production and market integration, rather than upsetting it.

Finally, there was a need to improve the regulation, functioning and transparency of financial and commodity markets to address excessive price volatility, and the Union was working on a policy communication to address this issue.  Multilateral institutions also had to be effective and he pointed to the ongoing reform of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as an example to follow.

GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana), speaking for the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that in recent years the Caribbean agriculture sector had faced many challenges, particularly constraints to production, productivity, competitiveness and exports.  They included:  reduced development support and investment; inadequate levels of new investments in research and development; deficient and uncoordinated risk management measures; outdated and inefficient agricultural health and food safety systems; weak land and water distribution and management systems, and transport systems; and the lack of skilled and qualified human resources.  The “Jagdeo Initiative” aimed to remove those constraints and transform the agriculture sector into an internationally competitive sector, capable of contributing to the region’s sustained economic livelihood, food and nutrition security, and rural development.

The Initiative, he said, comprised efforts to implement a community agricultural policy and regional strategic plan, to upgrade facilities and services for agriculture trade, to strengthen national and regional research and development, to create effective sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and to create investment incentives that would encourage strong private-sector involvement.  Further, it included efforts to implement a regional agriculture market information and intelligence system, and to maintain a reliable information platform to monitor, evaluate and indicate priority areas in need of action.  Among other objectives, it would aim to diversify the region’s agricultural products and exports.

He expressed concern that the region’s agriculture development could be further jeopardized as donors, in the wake of the economic crisis, reduced aid at a time when it was urgently needed.  He supported the Secretary-General’s report on agriculture development, which called for stable and predictable financial support from the international community.  He said CARICOM members had been forced to adjust to the reality of higher food prices caused by the 2007-2008 food crisis.  They had committed to strengthening regional agriculture food production to meet food security needs, and to eradicate poverty by means of financing, of strategic partnerships and of a greater focus on vulnerable groups.  The recent opening of the subregional office of FAO in Guyana would help in those efforts.

BENITO JIMÉNEZ SAUMA (Mexico), speaking for the Rio Group of countries, said that several economies in the region relied heavily on agriculture and that, for this reason, the Rio Group continued to pursue a wide range of notable initiatives at the local, national, regional and international levels in order to promote the development of the sector.  “We believe that food remains one of the most basic of all fundamental rights of the individual,” he said, adding that all countries should act to ensure that this right was fully realized for everyone.

With respect to the recent food crisis, he expressed concern that the lowering of prices of food and commodities from earlier peaks conveyed the impression that the crisis had disappeared or effectively had been solved, when that was quite contrary to reality.  Given the current challenges, action to ensure the eradication of hunger had to be urgent and comprehensive, and integrated with other policy goals such as environmental protection, enhancement of productivity and adaptation to climate change. 

Development efforts should include significantly scaled-up public and private investment in agriculture, monitoring of existing assistance commitments, eradication of speculative practices, among other factors.  He stressed the need to address the question of land tenure security as well as access to technology, credits and training.  Enough work had been done by different entities, organizations and bodies this year on the types of action needed to eradicate hunger and poverty through improved food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture, and the Rio Group was committed to play its part.

STEVE MATENJE (Malawi), speaking for the countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that in tackling the SADC food security and poverty problems, the sector of food, agriculture and natural resources was crucial.  It had massive potential in ensuring food security, fighting poverty and providing employment to the people of the region.  The region was well endowed with a diversified natural resource base, which has not been fully used because of a lack of appropriate and affordable agricultural technologies in a number of SADC member countries.

The objectives of SADC were to coordinate and harmonize the agricultural programmes and policies of its members, in order to boost production and to promote long-lasting trade, food security and economic development throughout the region.  It was unfortunate that climate change and the global financial and economic crisis continued to hamper the Community’s efforts to overcome food and nutritional insecurity, threatening to undo strides towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals.

He said he welcomed the Secretary-General’s high-level task force on the global food security crisis, and also next month’s World Summit on Food Security in Rome which he hoped that it would tackle the food security issue holistically.

CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said soaring food prices in 2008 made it clear that there was a need to address global food security in a systematic, strategic and effective manner.  “The disturbing reality of a world with more than a billion hungry people, demonstrates the necessity for an urgent action to alleviate the situation,” she said.  This could be helped by macroeconomic strategies that would create a fair multilateral trading system and more investment in agriculture and rural development.  She said trade and investment were mutually reinforcing; imbalances and distortions in world trade affected the access of agricultural products from developing countries to international markets and price stability, thereby discouraging public and private investment in the agricultural sector.

On environmental issues, she said that it was important to strengthen national actions on sustainable use of natural resources, and to address the needs of developing countries in terms of climate change adaptation.  However, actions were required at every level to create sustainable food security.  She said Colombia was fully committed to ensuring a stable supply of food, through a food policy based on several principles.  These included:  fulfilment of the right to food as a factor to enjoy other rights and freedom; social equality; consideration of environmental circumstances that compromised food security, and respect for cultural diversity in the means of food production, consumption and commercialization.

DAVID CARBAJAL ( United States) stressed the importance of improving food security in a major way.  One billion people suffered from chronic hunger.  By 2030, global food supplies must increase by an estimated 50 per cent to meet expected demand from a burgeoning world population.  Efforts were under way to reverse negative trends.  At the L’Aquila G-8 Summit in July, United States President Barack Obama announced a commitment of at least $3.5 billion over the next three years to promote agriculture-led economic growth in the developing world, which would be a powerful tool for reducing hunger and poverty.

He said the United States was also committed to working with Governments, multilateral organizations, and civil society and privates sector partners to executive country-level plans aimed at meeting the Millennium Development Goals related to hunger eradication.  The United States would take comprehensive approaches to improve global food security, he added.  Its efforts would follow country-led plans and include agriculture development, research into the root causes of hunger, trade, social safety net, emergency food assistance, and nutrition on country-led programmes that built on existing platforms consistent with the Accra Agenda for Action.

It was necessary, he said, to leverage existing programmes and processes to build on the momentum generated by the L’Aquila Summit, the Pittsburgh Group of Twenty (G-20) Summit and last month’s “Partnering for Global Food Security” event.  He called for stronger efforts to support country-led and regional strategies to drive investment in agricultural development in developing countries and suggested public benchmarks, a peer-review framework to ensure mutual accountability, and a flexible financing architecture.  All participants at L’Aquila must adhere to the commitment to give $20 billion in support during the next three years for sustainable agricultural development, while maintaining emergency food assistance.

LIU YUYIN ( China) said that with increasing economic globalization and the unprecedented development of science and technology, the international community did not lack the means for addressing the food issue.  The key was to effectively coordinate policies and actions, and to pay high attention to agricultural development.  The food issue should be treated from a strategic point of view.  In pushing for global economic recovery, countries should accord top priority to food security in their national development policies, so as to raise food production and increase food stock.  Major food producing countries should make more effort to that end, while developing countries should work continuously to enhance their level of food production, with necessary financial and technical support from the developed countries.

He said integrated measures should be taken to tackle the food issue in a comprehensive manner, in the fields of finance, trade, assistance, environment, intellectual property rights and the transfer of technology.  Joint efforts were needed in order to stabilize food prices and strike the proper balance between the development of biofuel and the need to ensure food security.  Stronger international cooperation was needed to create a favourable environment for fair and reasonable international trading in agricultural products.  He said developed countries should have more goodwill in the Doha Round of agricultural negotiations, eliminating trade barriers and showing more flexibility in such areas as reduction of agricultural subsidies, giving consideration to the particular concerns of developing countries.

He asserted that in the last decade China had maintained a rate of food self-sufficiency of more than 95 per cent, with the average annual net export of major grains, such as wheat, rice and corn, reaching 8 million tons.  It had also provided assistance to developing countries, particularly in Africa, under the framework of South-South cooperation as part of its contribution to promoting food and agricultural security in the world.  Since 2003, it had helped complete 14 agricultural project packages, and had established more than 20 overseas centres for demonstrating agricultural technologies.

JIMENA LEIVA ROESCH ( Guatemala) said a large number of smallholder farmers in her country were dedicated to subsistence agriculture and were related to an agricultural market that incorporated varying degrees of technology.  With a high incidence of poverty and neglect, any phenomenon that disrupted the fragile disequilibrium between the food demand and supply translated into malnutrition, especially for the most vulnerable.

The international food crisis, together with a severe climatic event had a devastating effect on Guatemala.  On 9 September, the Government declared a “state of national calamity” to address the food and nutritional crisis after the severe drought affecting primary food crops, especially in the seven provinces known as the “dry corridor”.  A national strategy for reducing chronic undernutrition was implemented, to break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition, and to take advantage of the window of opportunity provided by the early years of life.

Despite the famine, she went on, Guatemala had great potential to become an agricultural exporter that could benefit a large number of its smallholder farmers.  An exemplary case was a cooperative founded after the 1976 earthquake which had positioned Guatemala as a primary exporter of the snow-sugar pea, and increased the quality of life of the communities involved.  Thus, a food crisis had catalyzed new channels for cooperation.  However, the main issue continued to be food security and the broader issues of macroeconomic policy and coordination with members of the United Nations systems.

GONZALO GUILLÉN ( Peru) said the extreme weather patterns afflicting his country were further proof of the detrimental effects of climate change but that, despite the challenges, Peru had recently been producing more crops.  Given the particulars of Peruvian agriculture -– about 66 per cent of the country’s crops were not irrigated but depended on rain water -– Peru was especially vulnerable to volatile weather and climate change, and the Government had made it a priority to solve some of those structural issues.

He said the primary Peruvian glacier had lost 40 per cent of its surface area and 50,000 hectare crops were every year lost because of changing weather patterns.  However, the demand of biofuel, in part brought about by concern about climate change, had created a conflict between food and fuel that could be harmful to the environment, and certainly should be considered in the context of food security.  Peru, he said, gave priority to agricultural land use over and above biofuel, which should be obtained only from scrub land.  In terms of the road ahead, he said his country had a centuries-old agricultural tradition, and knowledge complementing modern technology that could be used to improve food security in a sustainable way.

ASAD MAJEED KHAN ( Pakistan) said that in the past two years crises related to food, climate change and other factors had led to a dramatic and unacceptable rise in the number of people facing food insecurity.  That had been further aggravated by high energy costs, lack of investment in agriculture, subsidized production of biofuels and substitute food production, export restrictions leading to hoarding and panic buying, and speculation in commodity futures.  “It is both tragic and ironic that in this age of scientific and technological advancement and economic affluence, more than 1 billion people –- the highest number ever -- suffer from malnutrition,” he said.  Worst still was that a large percentage of them were small-scale farmers.  

The economic crisis was rapidly turning into a human development catastrophe for the world’s poorest, as the Governments of developing countries were increasingly limited in their ability to maintain social safety nets, or to provide food, health and education to vulnerable populations.  The World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that half of Pakistan’s population faced food insecurity. 

Despite its low emissions, Pakistan was considered to be at high risk for climate change, he said.  Recent studies indicated that a 1° C rise in temperature would severely impact cash crop production in Pakistan.  The nation was also faced with the challenge of feeding a large population dislocated because of law enforcement action against terrorists.  However, Pakistan was steadfast in its commitment to sustained economic growth and prosperity.  Increasing agricultural productivity, ensuring food security, bringing social and economic equity to agrarian structures and focusing on small farmers were key objectives of Pakistan’s agricultural policy, and its strategy to address unemployment, poverty alleviation and economic development.  It had taken steps such as incentive packages for farmers, research on hybrid seeds of wheat and rice, and water conservation measures, among others, to ensure adequate affordable food. 

EDUARDO R. MEÑEZ ( Philippines) said the food price volatility of the recent past, and the continuing relatively high prices of food products, had changed the thinking of many national policymakers.  The mindset that striving for food security was not a rational approach to agricultural development, because the efficiency of markets would take care of a country’s food needs, was now shifting.

He said the issue of agriculture development and food security had taken on even more significance to the Philippines because of the recent series of typhoons the country had experienced.  They had set back the Government’s efforts to eradicate poverty, since those natural disasters had instead resulted in an eradication of property, lives and livelihoods -– affecting more than 8 million people, and with more than one thousand lives lost.  The cost in property and agricultural products ran into billions of pesos.  Another typhoon was currently about to affect Northern Luzon, an area that had already been severely hit.

Given the extensive damage the country’s agricultural sector had suffered through recent disasters, farmers would lose the next harvest season without help in repairing irrigation infrastructure before the end of the year and in meeting the immediate need for seed and fertilizers.  It would be difficult for them to recover.  This situation gave added relevance to current discussions and the Philippines called for the quick and comprehensive implementation of the policy recommendations that would guarantee a world without hunger through sustainable agricultural development.

BAYA BENSMAIL ( Algeria) said the food crisis should not be hidden behind the financial crisis.  The current economic problems pointed to the underlying and systemic dysfunction of the world economy.  The time had come to systemically and effectively tackle volatile food and commodity prices, brought about through speculation.  Furthermore, it was necessary to strengthen global governance to guarantee coherent and effective long-term action.

On the need for hunger and poverty reduction, she said the financial contributions of Member States, while praiseworthy, would benefit from being augmented by capacity-building and assistance to improve the competitiveness of farmers in the developing world.  The promotion of the “Green Revolution” in Africa, she added, could provide lasting solutions to the food crisis in the continent.  With regard to her own country, the Government had implemented a national development plan that focused on sustainable development of the agriculture sector.

HANNA PROROK ( Ukraine) expressed deep concern over lasting food insecurity in the world.  Global food production was enough to feed everyone, but, according to FAO, 100 million more people would suffer from hunger in 2009, bringing the total worldwide to more than 1 billion.  She said Ukraine had contributed $580,000 to WFP, and it expected follow-up to the “Agriculture Development and Food Security” initiative held earlier in the year.  It was a co-sponsor of the General Assembly resolution on that subject, and was ready for effective, constructive dialogue to draft a substantive resolution on agriculture development. 

She called for implementing the conclusions of the comprehensive framework for action developed by the high-level task force on the global food security crisis set up last year.  Cooperation between the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), FAO and WFP should be strengthened.  More attention must be paid to long-term agricultural development, which was essential for avoiding future food crises.

She said food stability could be achieved through long-term, strengthened and comprehensive agricultural development, based on countries’ comparative advantages.  The lack of investment in agricultural research, natural resources, financial services, local infrastructure, market links and safety nets was a main obstacle to successful agricultural development in developing countries.  In Ukraine, investment in agriculture during the first half of 2009 was less than half the amount during the first half of 2008, owing to the financial crisis.  Food production and exports also dropped from January to August this year, versus the same period last year; at the same time, Ukraine’s agricultural sector was continuously contributing to the development of world food markets.

MAYTE MASOT ( Cuba) said that 1 billion people were affected by hunger and malnutrition in the world, despite years-old pledges to eliminate hunger.  The root causes of the problem, she said, could be found in the uneven and unfair distribution of global resources, and the tendency towards monopoly of production and distribution of food and agricultural products.  Debt burden and subsidies in the developed world created an increasingly precarious situation for small farmers and rural populations in developing countries. 

Member States which committed themselves to allocating 0.7 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) for ODA did not honour their word, she said, and pointed out that the money spent by the most powerful nations on military campaigns could be used to alleviate miseries rather than to spread them.  She wondered if the upcoming FAO Summit on World Food Security, to be held in Rome next month, might be the beginning of true solutions at last.  She quoted Cuba’s leader, Fidel Castro, as saying “A better world is possible.”

SHIGEKI SUMI ( Japan) said enhancing global food security was a foreign policy objective for his country.  The Government had announced a 2.1 billion dollar contribution towards emergency food aid and assistance to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and to China and India, in order to enhance food production over the next five years.  Both short-term and longer term measures were necessary to achieve food security and his country encouraged the investment in rural development as well as in research and infrastructure to ensure market access for farmers.

Among the initiatives undertaken by Japan, he highlighted last month’s event “Promoting Responsible International Investment in Agriculture”, which was hosted by his country and co-chaired by the World Bank, FAO, IFAD and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  The meeting, which was attended by representatives from 31 countries, marked the first step towards a coordinated response on this issue and the formulation of principles to promote responsible agricultural investment.

HYE-RYOUNG SONG ( Republic of Korea) said increases in financial investment and more qualitative approaches were needed to achieve food security.  Actions should be incorporated into the sustainable development and poverty-eradication strategies of developing countries.  Key commitments made by donor countries at the G-8 and G-20 meetings should respect existing multilateral frameworks.

She said she underscored the need for a coordinated, comprehensive approach to enhance food security; that required stronger aid effectiveness and sustainable agricultural development, and building upon the central role of United Nations institutions such as the Secretary-General’s high-level task force on the global food security crisis and its comprehensive framework for action. 

To support the Global Partnership for Agriculture and Food Security, the Republic of Korea had allocated $100 million from 2009 to 2011, to provide emergency food relief and support sustainable agricultural development in developing countries.   That effort was in line with the comprehensive framework for action.  Her country had allocated 25 per cent of its assistance budget to emergency food aid programmes, including nutrition security programmes through WFP.  The remaining budget was used for long-term agricultural development programmes conducted by the Korea International Cooperation Agency.  The agency’s projects focused particularly on providing first-hand knowledge of agricultural development in farming, infrastructure, technology and policymaking.  This year, it would work with 14 partner countries on rural and agriculture development projects, and it would dispatch 100 volunteers and train almost 500 people in the field.

URI RESNICK ( Israel) said food security was one of the most important and urgent issues on the global agenda, and that his country –- which had undergone rapid, successful agricultural development -– was eager to assist international efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals.  He noted that it was time to shift the focus from what needed to be done and, rather, find ways of how to bring it about.

As for concrete measures, he said the focus should be on market-based projects, tailoring crop varieties to local conditions and needs, increasing investment in research and technology for all further agricultural development, and bringing the food security goals further within reach.  Israel had created a number of successful projects “grounded in a bottom-up approach” that targeted smallholder farmers and relied on relatively simple and cheap irrigation techniques.  Such projects had great potential if duplicated on a large scale across sub-Saharan Africa, he said.

RAYMOND SERGE BALÉ ( Congo) said the international community should live up to its commitments to address the world food crisis, which had been exacerbated by the global economic and financial crisis.  It must strengthen its resolve to establish a balance in development policies in terms of agriculture.  He supported the comprehensive framework for action created by the Secretary-General’s high-level task force on the global food security crisis.  It reflected the consensus that international cooperation was the best way to fight the crisis.  The food, energy, climate change and financial crises had posed challenges for many countries attempting to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Programmes, strategies and policies tailored to each country’s specific needs were necessary to help countries address those challenges. 

He said his country was committed to freeing itself from dependency on exports.  He supported initiatives to achieve food security.  He pointed to the bleak plight of small-scale farmers, who accounted for 70 per cent of the more than 1 billion people in the world today who suffered from malnutrition.  His Government had launched rural development projects and was providing funding for 145 projects.  Priority had been given to cattle raising and related areas.  Food security could not be permanent if the planet’s environment was not protected.  Water must be available for all.  The international community must step up efforts to finance agricultural production to eradicate hunger, boost agricultural productivity and preserve peace and stability.

SAMANTHA JAYASURIYA ( Sri Lanka) said this was a critical period in the history of mankind -- the world faced several complex problems, including the economic, food, fuel and climate crises, and it was necessary for Member States to focus on urgent, long-term measures to reduce power and hunger globally.  Her own Government had adopted a number of development strategies that emphasized improving the living standards of the poor, and as much as 4 per cent of GDP had been redistributed to the needy through food subsidies, food stamps and various credits.  As a result, the country’s poverty level had dropped below 14 per cent last year, from 22.7 per cent six years earlier.

She said the agricultural sector in Sri Lanka contributed 11 per cent to GDP and provided employment for almost a third of the labour force.  A nationwide crop production campaign had accelerated food production and helped the food and nutrition security of the country.  Farmlands that had been abandoned for almost three decades because of conflict were now cultivated, and regions in the North and East were gradually becoming cultivated.  She called for increasing assistance in terms of agriculture development and food security, as this would help small and vulnerable economies become more resilient at a time of environmental and economic uncertainty.

ALEXANDER PANKIN ( Russian Federation) said the global food crisis threatened achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Agricultural production had declined because of inadequate investment in science, production and the misuse of eco models.  The food crisis was even more urgent in the face of the global financial crisis.  During discussions at the United Nations on the global food crisis, participants unanimously supported the need for collective measures.  The Rome Declaration on World Food Security adopted last year was a step in the right direction.  So was the comprehensive framework for action set forth by the Secretary-General’s high-level task force on the global food security crisis.  He said he supported continued efforts to implement the framework for action and for the task force to serve as a platform for coordinated action to develop the agriculture sector and overcome food crisis.  He supported the efforts of the World Summit on Food Security.

To achieve food security, he said, it was necessary to increase agricultural production.  The Russian Federation was working to modernize its agricultural production system and strengthen its role as a major food supplier.  It had stepped up financial contributions to achieve global food security to more than $10 billion last year.  In 2009, it gave WFP $15 million to assist several countries in need of food aid.  In 2010, it would increase its annual contribution to the WFP to $20 million, including ad hoc emergency food, bringing the total amount of aid for the year to $30 million.  It was necessary to stabilize commodity prices, to better regulate the agricultural trade and to reduce barriers to world grain markets.

When the Committee met again this afternoon, ESAYAS GOTTA (Ethiopia) said chronic under-investment in agriculture, competing demand for resources, climate change and restrictions on obtaining agricultural technology, among other things, had to led to the global food security crisis with dire consequences.  That, coupled with the recent unprecedented financial and energy crises, posed a formidable challenge to humanity.  The struggle against poverty in Ethiopia was a matter of national security, and food security was at the centre of that struggle. 

As part of efforts to achieve food security in the past several years, he said, Ethiopia had put in place an agricultural development-led industrialization strategy.  That was based on the recognition that agriculture drove the Ethiopian economy.  It took into account the fact that subsistence farmers comprised 85 per cent of the population, and that the poverty rate was very high.  That was why the country’s economic growth and poverty-reduction strategies put high priority on agricultural growth and rural development.  It focused on strengthening the supply of yield-enhancing agricultural technologies and supporting private-sector participation.  It aimed to improve the productive capacity of farmers through training and incentives.

To ensure that the policy was implemented, he went on, the Government had steadily increased the percentage of funds from the federal budget destined for agriculture, from 11 per cent in 1997-1998 to 18 per cent in 2007-2008.  As a result, Ethiopia’s agricultural production had grown at an average annual rate of more than 10 per cent, and overall annual growth had been in the double digits during the past five years.  Ethiopia had embarked on an ambitious Food Security Programme, which was expected to ensure food security in five years for 8.3 million who were chronically without it.

CLAUDE LEMIEUX ( Canada) said that the complex impacts of the food crisis coupled with the effects of the economic crisis had left more than 1 billion people in a chronic state of hunger.  Fragile global food security made countries ever more interdependent.  That had become critical to attaining the Millennium Development Goals, especially that of halving extreme poverty and hunger.  The international community must address the structural causes of the food crisis, including:  population growth; weather-induced production shortfalls; rising agricultural input costs; population growth; changing diets and an emphasis on cash crops for export.

Applauding the role of the United Nations as “critical to stemming the ongoing challenges associated with food security”, she said its numerous agencies should work together towards achieving concrete, long-lasting results.  Canada had recently unveiled a food security strategy with three pillars:  food aid and nutrition; agriculture; research.  It had taken steps to make its food assistance faster at a lower cost while supporting local agricultural development.  It would increase its micronutrient programming and promote nutrient supplements as an inclusive part of global food security.  To further boost institutional responses to ongoing food security, Canada had pledged to double to $75 million over three years, its contribution to IFAD, which was helping millions of smallholder farmers.

She stressed that national policies were critical to ensuring that food security and agricultural development commitments could be implemented and held accountable.  Urging for the collective efforts of the United Nations, civil society and the private sector, she said hunger and food security made it necessary to be ever more focused and strategic, reiterating the European Union’s commitment to deliberating on food security and agricultural development with multilateral stakeholders.

VIKTOR SERGEEV (on behalf of KURLORICH VASILIY) (Belarus) said that one specific contribution that the developed world could make to help developing countries in terms of food security and agricultural development was to minimize export limitations and tariffs on imports, and ensure the free movement of agricultural products.  Another helpful step would be a fruitful conclusion to the World Trade Organization’s final round of Doha negotiations.

Without the input of modern technology, he said, the food crisis could not be overcome.  He expressed confidence that the goal of equal access to technology would be reflected at the World Summit on Food Security to be held in Rome next month.  He appealed for the support of Member States on this issue because the provision of technology and technical assistance contributed to a sustainable increase in food manufacturing.  He noted that the United Nations had commemorated World Food Day last week, and reflected on the need to focus international efforts to provide assistance to the world’s hungry.  The food crisis had had far-reaching consequences; only together would it be possible to meet the associated challenges.

PATCHARAMON SIRIWATANA ( Thailand) said his country was dependent on the agricultural sector and was committed to sustainable agricultural management; a new national food and agricultural strategic plan was being developed to embrace the multidimensional aspects of addressing the issues involved in agricultural development and food security.  Key priorities were technology transfer and securing financing; the development of trade and infrastructure; creating added value to agricultural products; and the development of an early warning system through information networking.  Maintaining a balance between rice production and rice exports would also be emphasized, as would the empowerment of smallholder farmers.

At the regional level, he said, his country’s efforts were carried out within the ASEAN framework, which emphasized cooperation, commitment and ownership in ensuring the region’s long-term food security.  Right now, he added, ASEAN leaders were holding a summit in his country; tomorrow the ASEAN Plus Three ( China, Japan and Republic of Korea) countries would issue a statement to promote further cooperation on food security and bioenergy development.

He said international cooperation could turn the food crisis into opportunities for sustainable agricultural development.  He referred to the implementation of agricultural techniques to increase productivity and yields, the improvement of production systems, soil and seeds to meet international standards, and better management of agricultural lands and water systems for irrigation.  He said international support was welcome in the area of information-sharing on sustainable development.  Innovative agricultural methods, including organic farming, were of interest, as were sustainable agro-industries and community-based enterprise systems.

IMAD IBRAHIM TAGURI ( Libya) said the world faced a global food crisis last year.  High commodity prices had since dropped and they had stabilized somewhat, but economic growth and the growth in biofuels would spur demand for agricultural products and foodstuffs and cause prices for food to rise.  Food assistance was a positive step, but the real solution to achieving food security was to correct the mistakes made in the last decade.  The world spent billions of dollars on weapons, but it was facing a food crisis that required only $30 billion annually to scale up food security in a big way.  Emphasis must be placed on objective solutions that would make it possible to create lasting food security at a time when the world was supposed to have plenty of food for all.  That was vital for countering hunger, as were investment in infrastructure development in the field. 

He stressed the importance of helping developing countries create appropriate policies to step up long-term agricultural production.  He called for steps to foster fair competition for developing countries.  Rich countries must refrain from protectionist policies.  The Doha trade round negotiations must be speeded up, particularly as they concerned agriculture.  The upcoming Rome Summit would be an opportunity to take steps to guarantee food security for all.  He stressed the need to coordinate efforts to improve food production and put an end to monopolies on seeds necessary for food production.

He said Libya was a food importer; in order to mitigate the food crisis, it had reduced taxes on food imports.  It was working with partners on joint investment projects in several African countries.  It had organized several meetings with African officials, which had led to important recommendations concerning agriculture.

BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said the situation in world food markets, and the impact on the lives and livelihoods of people all over the world, jeopardized the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and caused social and political instability in many countries.  Urgent action was needed by the world community to improve the international food aid system.  Physical and economic access to food should be duly assessed at the national, regional and global levels.

She said Kazakhstan would help address the global food crisis, adhering to the policy of increasing volume of grain production and export.  Because of its vast territory, natural cultivation land and pastures, and its potential for cattle breeding, Kazakhstan was one of the world’s top 10 exporters of grain and flour.  However, limited annual rainfall was a problem and this raised concerns, especially in light of global climate change.

She said a memorandum of cooperation between FAO and Kazakhstan’s “KazAgro National Holding” included joint projects in the agricultural sector, which highlighted the importance of mutual cooperation with the United Nations.  In this regard, Kazakhstan had rendered humanitarian assistance to countries in need by providing food products, mostly in the form of grain/wheat deliveries.  Food security issues should be addressed in a balanced approach with observance of the international fair trade norms, support for humanitarian assistance and sustainable agricultural development.  Prompt reaction was needed by means of strengthened cooperation between States and the consolidated potential of all involved stakeholders, including multilateral institutions.

MARIA TERESA MESQUITA PESSÔA ( Brazil) said the Secretary-General’s report correctly underscored some of the characteristics and causes of food insecurity and the food crisis.  It stated that there was enough food in the world, but hunger and malnutrition persisted.  It noted that there was price volatility, chronic under-investment in developing countries’ agricultural sectors, and poor harvests that had impacted food availability.  The report highlighted the comprehensive policy recommendations from the seventeenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.  She said she would have welcomed references in that report to other important initiatives in the region, such as “Latin America and the Caribbean without Hunger by 2025 Initiative”, and the establishment of virtual food banks.  Member States would also benefit from being informed about the work carried out by the World Committee on Food Security of the FAO.

She spoke of questions raised by the report.  For example, it stated that neither subsidies nor fossil fuel prices were included as contributing factors to the 2008 food price surge.  It also stated that agricultural subsidies in rich countries had created distortions in world food markets and were impacting the development of robust agricultural sectors in the developing world.  However, the report did not provide an accurate picture of how subsidies impacted food production, access to food and markets, and rural development in developing countries.  Poor farmers in developing countries had also been hit by the high price of farming inputs, including those based on fossil fuels.  The report fell short in identifying that.  While the analysis was largely based on available data, at times the report relied on projections and hypotheses that did not adequately reflect the challenges faced by developing countries.

DIEGO LIMERES ( Argentina) said that after a year of intense negotiations, the FAO on 17 October passed comprehensive reform of the Committee on World Food Security, which was currently presided over by Argentina.  The reform committee would become a main international and intergovernmental platform, comprising a broad range of stakeholders in support of processes to eliminate hunger, and improve food and nutritional security for all people.  During its first phase, the committee would focus on global coordination and the convergence of policies and financial support for specific countries and regions.  The second phase would focus on coordinating national and regional plans, and promoting the monitoring and development of a global strategic framework for food security and nutrition. 

An important function of the committee would be to create substantial dynamic and operational links for actors on the ground to foster participation and greater cooperation among the three Rome-based agencies of the United Nations.  Through a transparent and inclusive process, the role of the committee had been bolstered and its agenda in FAO had been restored to its rightful place.  Reform of the committee would strengthen global governance and work at the regional and national level to fight hunger.

ENAYET MADANI ( Afghanistan) said his country once had a robust agricultural economy and was a self-sufficient producer of wheat, fruit, nuts, barley, sugar cane and wool before war had engulfed it.  Today agricultural productivity had declined significantly, infrastructure had been destroyed and droughts and price fluctuations had created food shortages –- leaving millions of Afghans starving.  While only 12 per cent of the country’s land was fertile for agriculture, 80 per cent of the country’s population lived in rural areas and depended on sustenance farming for survival and their livelihoods.  Agriculture accounted for half of the country’s gross domestic product yet war had left many people, particularly farmers, dependent on international assistance.  It was vital to continue humanitarian assistance and to create food safety nets for the most vulnerable while restructuring and investing in the agricultural sector.

Some of the worst droughts in Afghanistan’s history in 2008 and 2009 had led to a 60 per cent reduction in wheat production over the previous year.  Increasing water scarcity impacted the rain-fed and irrigated lands, he said.  Many irrigation systems had been destroyed over the decades of war and more than 85 per cent of the irrigated land was dependent on water from the mountains, which were sensitive to climate change and shifting rainfall patterns.

To rebuild its agricultural sector, Afghanistan needed to improve agricultural productivity without wasting water or degrading the soil; to have research to find drought-resistant crops and seeds; to rehabilitate water wells, reservoirs, irrigation technologies and other infrastructure; and to create policies for food pricing to prevent price hikes and subsequent food shortages.

FERNANDO BERGUÑO ( Chile) said that many important points had been made during the day’s discussion, but he wanted to stress the fundamentally important point of the need to eliminate all forms of tariffs which distorted trade and created imbalances. 

Trade and investment were mutually supportive, and the promotion of more fair and equal access to markets was a key to overcoming the food crisis and furthering agricultural development.  He highlighted the upcoming high-level event on the economic crisis and food crisis, in areas emerging from conflicts, which was organized by Economic and Social Council.

JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) said he supported the work of the Secretary-General’s high-level task force on the global food security crisis.  The work of the Commission on Sustainable Development had also proved to be important.  He supported some of the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report, but not all of them.  In a world where food production capacity was great, there should be no hunger.  If what was produced was fairly distributed, all people should be sufficiently nourished.  The global population would substantially increase by 2050.  Much of that increase would take place in developing countries.  The distribution of wealth in the world was increasingly unequal.

By 2020, he said, climate change would cause 50 million more people to suffer from hunger.  If agro-fuels continued to be consumed at the current rate, the availability of cereals would drop, causing a spike in malnutrition, especially in southern Africa.  He said 2 billion people depended on the products of 500 million small scale producers.  But those farmers’ production and livelihood was being threatened by multinational firms like Monsanto and Cargil, which were responsible for food price increases and the destruction of traditional planting.  Those worrying trends, however, were not reflected in the Secretary-General’s report.

He said the lack of food security for people in the South was especially grave.  World peace depended on seeds being planted and being able to thrive, and on forests and animals being freed from exploitation.  The right to food was enshrined in Venezuela’s legislation.  Food sovereignty and security were national priorities.

ABDOURAHMANE TRAORE ( Senegal) said that one out of three children born in the developing world was malnourished and, because of that, exhibited various ailments and developmental problems.  To counter that situation, and to improve food security in general, it was crucial to assist smallholder farmers and to develop rural areas.  However, no development measures could succeed, if developed countries continued their policies of subsidies and trade protectionism.

With regard to ODA, he said it was vital that donor countries upheld their stated commitments.  There was also an urgent need to draw up and implement strategies for each country at the national level in order to effectively confront the scourge of poverty and hunger.  In Senegal, the Government had launched a successful offensive against food insecurity.  After just one year, the programme had shown impressive results.  The country was now self-sufficient in rice -- the main foodstuff of the country -- and had increased its production of grain and horticulture.  He said international support was vital for agricultural development; Senegal for one had been supported in its efforts by the United States Government through its Millennium Challenge Corporation, and he hoped that other donors would follow this path.

ARCHBISHOP CELESTINO MIGLIORE (Holy See) said that, for the first time, more than 1 billion people were undernourished, and although the world produced enough food for the global community, food demand continued to rise faster than agricultural production.  Inequities and mismanagement of commodities and financial systems hampered the ability for all to live in a world free of hunger.  As consumption patterns changed in developing countries, agricultural land was used for non-agricultural purposes or remained removed from production, and agricultural products were destined for non-nutritional purposes. 

He said part of the solution lay in commitments in terms of climate change, and thus the United Nations was working for a successful outcome at the forthcoming Copenhagen conference.  Turning to Africa, he spoke of the savannah which ran through 25 countries, from Senegal to South Africa, currently unproductive but endowed with immense agricultural potential.  At the moment, he said, only 10 per cent of the savannah was being utilized, but a timely and correct policy based on medium- to small-scale farming could deliver the amazing results which had been experienced in other regions in the world, where the same policy was adopted 20 years ago.  He said subsidies and the process of redefining the global cycle of production were also needed.  Science and technology were not sufficient to tackle existing problems; they could be addressed only in the framework of solidarity and actions, as well as increased dignity for farmers.

XENIA VON LILIEN, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Liaison Office, New York, said the world had entered a “new era of global food insecurity” and efforts to combat poverty and hunger were being undermined by the impacts of climate change, food price volatility and the global economic downturn.  With five years until the 2015 deadline to reach the Millennium Development Goals, 1.4 billion people still lived on less than $1.25 a day.  The recession had sharply increased hunger, reduced incomes and significantly lowered food access.

Addressing global food insecurity required a comprehensive approach that involved an immediate response to the world’s hungry, she said.  Actions outlined in the comprehensive framework for action rightfully focused on the role of smallholder farmers and poor rural producers in food production, poverty reduction and natural resource management.

She said efforts to bring smallholder agriculture and women farmers to the top of the political agenda were bearing fruit, notably as the G-8 had committed to invest $20 billion in those areas in the next three years, a potentially historic breakthrough in the fight against hunger.  The IFAD would partner with any initiative that engaged those stakeholders.

Describing the Fund’s activities, she said it brought more than financial resources to the effort to expand investments and agricultural development; it was also intensifying its efforts in country-level processes of strategy development and project design.  No single Government or United Nations agency could alone address the massive challenges of hunger and poverty, and the Fund stood ready to work with its partners, Member States and poor farmers, to ensure that food security would be achieved in this lifetime.

ALI MCHUMO, Managing Director, Common Fund for Commodities, commended the Secretary-General’s report on agriculture development and food security.  He said it was encouraging after years of neglect, agriculture, crucial for attaining the Millennium Development Goals, was now at the centre of talks on international development.  The venue of the meeting tied in with the mandate of the Common Fund, which, under a United Nations framework, was to enhance the socio-economic development of smallholder commodity producers in particular.

He said that although food shortages and vulnerable populations needed rapid responses, it was still important to address the food crisis issue by looking at its underlying long-term problems.  That would involve ways to increase production and a broad range of issues such as investment and climate change, and developing the agricultural and commodity sectors.  That was how the Fund first came into being 20 years ago, and it had recently reiterated that it could enhance its involvement in food security by creating trust funds with potential donor countries and institutions.

An overriding goal of the Fund was to protect small holder commodity producers against vulnerabilities, including volatile prices and supplies.  More funds and resources had to be mobilized; a solution could come about through an open and comprehensive process that would involve an all-inclusive global partnership. 

LILA HANITRA RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office, said the food crisis that had shaken the global economy since 2007 had highlighted the vulnerability of the world food system.  The international community needed to take concerted action.  Agricultural productivity must be enhanced, and a sustainable green revolution begun.  Cooperation should also be promoted for mobilizing new resources.  Investment should be encouraged in rural infrastructure, in research, and in the technical and social capacities of Government agencies.  Urgent and decisive action was also needed by the committee for World Food Security, which had considered that world food production should be increased by 50 per cent by the year 2030, and by 70 per cent by 2050, to feed the world population expected to grow to 9.1 billion in 40 years.

Aware of the varying needs and challenges of different countries, she said, the FAO would continue to work in close collaboration with Governments, United Nations partner agencies, civil society organizations and the private sector.  This collaboration would take the form of programmes such as the “Jagdeo Initiative” in the Caribbean, and the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme in Africa.

She said the events of the last two years had shown that food security was also indispensable for world peace and security.  Sharp price increases had led to riots and social unrest in 22 countries.  Currently 33 countries needed emergency assistance.  In this context, the FAO had proposed that a World Summit of Heads of State and Government on Food Security be organized to address key challenges.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.