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A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
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16 October 2013

World Food Day Ceremony 2013

Her Excellency Nadine Heredia Alarcón de Humala, First Lady of the Republic of Peru and FAO Special Ambassador for International Year of Quinoa,

Her Excellency Nunzia de Girolamo, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policy of the Republic of Italy,

Her Excellency Nemesia Achacollo Tola, Minister for Rural Development and Land of the Plurinational State of Bolivia,

His Excellency Mahama Zoungranam, Minister for Agriculture and Food Security of Burkina Faso,

His Excellency Lucien Bembamba, Minister for Economy and Finance of Burkina Faso,

His Excellency Alfredo Mitogo Mitogo, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea,

His Excellency Crescencio Tamarite Castaño, Minister for Fisheries and Environment of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea,

His Excellency José Congundua Antonio Pacheco, Minister for Agriculture of the Republic of Mozambique,

His Excellency Christopher Chiza, Minister for Agriculture of the United Republic of Tanzania,

Honourable Ignazio Marino, Mayor of Rome,

His Excellency Archbishop Luigi Travaglino, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO,

His Excellency Mr Wilfred J. Ngirwa, Independent Chairperson of the Council,

Mr Bekele Geleta, Secretary-General of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC),

Mr. Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development,

Ms. Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme,

Ms Ann Tutwiler, Director-General of Biodiversity International

Ministers,

Heads of Delegation,

Representatives of civil society and private sector,

Colleagues from FAO and the United Nations,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have the pleasure to declare open this World Food Day ceremony.

Your presence is a testimony of your commitment to the global effort to eradicate hunger from the face of the earth.

This is the vision that led to the creation of FAO exactly 68 years ago. This is the vision that still moves us today.

The process of producing food and getting it onto our plates is extraordinarily complex. It involves many different steps and players.

Not just farmers, herdsmen and fishermen. But also the scientists who develop technologies; the suppliers of farm inputs; those who transport, store and process food; and those who market it.

And, also, all of us are, of course, consumers of food.

We are all part of this process, which is what makes the theme of this year’s World Food Day important: Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition.

It touches on fundamental points. We cannot improve nutrition without food security. And we cannot achieve food security without better food systems.

We could say that that the food system works well if there is a stable equilibrium between global food demand and supply.

Are we there?

If we answer this question from a supply perspective only, we might say yes.

Food production has tripled since World War Two and per capita availability has increased by over 40%.

However, if we look from the demand perspective, we can see that over half of the world’s population is affected by either over- or under-consumption, in other words, they either do not eat or eat less than they need.

They remain trapped in this condition because they lack the means to produce or buy the food they need. It is scandalous that this happens in a world where there is enough food for all.

It is our joint responsibility to change this and ensure that people can access the healthy food they need.

During the last FAO Conference last July, we recognized 38 countries that had already reached the Millennium Development Hunger Target of halving the proportion of undernourished between 1990 and 2015.

According to the latest estimates presented in the 2013 last edition of the “State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI)”, now the number has gone up to 44. If we add another 18 developing countries that already had undernourishment rates below 5 percent in 1990, the result is that 62 out of 128 countries, nearly half of the countries that FAO monitors, have reached the MDG hunger target.

You can choose how to look at it: whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. I see many challenges ahead of us, but also progress and successful experiences that we can build on.

These 62 countries show us that we can win the war against hunger.

Ending malnutrition, and ending hunger, is not only an issue of human dignity, it is ultimately ensuring that everyone has the right to healthy food.

The flip side is the huge economic benefits that could result from ending hunger and malnutrition.

The economic costs of hunger are striking. They can amount to as much as 5 percent of global income through lost productivity and direct health care costs.

There is a third angle from which we can answer the question: the sustainability angle. And we also need to improve there.

The increase in food production which the intensive use of inputs and the Green Revolution made possible came at a high environmental cost. And about one-third of the food produced is lost or wasted.

This is not sustainable today or in 2050, when we will have to provide food for a population of 9 billion people.

So, as you can see, we still have many issues to tackle to make our food systems sustainable. But, for the first time in history, we have the means we need to overcome them.

The Committee on World Food Security which met here in this same Plenary Hall last week showed how different actors with different opinions are ready to work together to find new ways forward.

More and more people are committing to work together to achieve a world without hunger that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Zero Hunger at the Rio+20 Conference.

And in the discussion on the post-2015 Development Agenda, FAO stands together with IFAD and the WFP in supporting the proposals agreed on at the high-level consultation on hunger, food security and malnutrition held last April in Madrid, Spain, namely to:

aim for the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; and,

to adopt a specific global goal on food security and nutrition.

This is an opportunity to challenge ourselves to achieve a world that is free from want and hunger.

The very same vision that motivated our founding fathers to create FAO 68 years ago. That can be read in the preamble of our Constitution. And that is translated into the five strategic objectives that now guide FAO’s work.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Each year, World Food Day offers us an opportunity to adopt critical tools and solutions that will move us towards a well-nourished, hunger-free world.

This year, we call upon everyone to update and broaden their understanding of the hunger problem.

To view hunger and malnutrition as the tragic outcome of unhealthy food systems, food systems in which we all play a part.

By encouraging healthy, sustainable food systems, yes we CAN have the future we want.

Thank you for your attention.