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A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
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06 June 2014                                                           

 

International Conference
The most important reserves of implementing
the Food Program in Uzbekistan

 

Your Excellency Islam Karimov, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan,

Distinguished Ministers and Heads of Delegations,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Mr President, before starting, let me congratulate you for the inspiring speech that you just gave us.

I would like to begin by thanking President Karimov for inviting me to participate in this discussion of the Uzbek food program.

There are many examples worldwide of the importance of comprehensive food strategies, that include interventions from production to protection in the agricultural sector.

They are a central element in the efforts of most of the countries that have already reached the First Millennium Development Goal Hunger target of halving the proportion of undernourishment.

Between the early 2000s and today, Uzbekistan has achieved significant progress in food production.

One of the main reasons for this significant improvement is the increase in agricultural production and productivity.

Grain production has doubled. Potatoes and vegetables tripled. Fruit has also grown considerably, with a doubling of grapes production.

As a whole, Uzbek agriculture has been growing by an average of 6 percent per year.

The improvements were made possible by a reform in the agricultural sector, that shifted the focus from cotton monoculture to a more diversified production and improved rural infra-structure.

I also want to note the country’s efforts to increase its presence in regional and international markets.

This integration is important in a globalized world. And the increased food production in Uzbekistan, especially of fruits and vegetables, can contribute to food security in other countries.

FAO is proud to have been part of the Uzbek efforts. We have had a growing collaboration since 2001.

For example, FAO and its partners are providing technical support to countries in integrated seed sector development.

Among the plant protection problems that pose a challenge for agricultural production and food security, locusts are a significant threat, especially in this region.

FAO is also implementing a five-year program to strengthen locust management capacities in ten countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus and to increase intra-regional cooperation to combat it.

The food program on our agenda today can play an important part in consolidating the advances that Uzbekistan has made in recent years.

By meeting the challenges that it has ahead, Uzbekistan can improve the food security of its citizens and can increase its food exports. The challenges include:

First, continue to increase agricultural production and productivity. In this regard, sustainability is a key issue. We need to use our scarce land and water resources wisely, saving and growing as we say in FAO.

Second, continue to improve rural infrastructure, including transportation and storage, to reduce food loss. It is important to note that about one-third of all food produced globally is lost or wasted.

Third, support family farmers and small-scale production. Around 70 percent of the world’s food insecure population live in rural areas. With adequate support they can improve their own food security, increase local availability of food, and give a greater contribution to local rural development.

And, fourth, increase private investments in agriculture. In this effort, I want to highlight the importance of ensuring that those investments contribute to increased production in a sustainable way and to the increased food security of the most poor population.

FAO is ready to help you meet these challenges as you move forward, working within the revised strategic framework approved by its Member States, including Uzbekistan.

This framework sharpens the focus of our work in FAO on five strategic objectives. They are:

First, ending hunger and malnutrition;

Second, promoting sustainable food production and natural resources management;

Third, reducing rural poverty;

Fourth, improving food systems; and,

Fifth, building resilience in rural areas.

Together, these five strategic objectives respond to the food security and sustainability challenges we face in the world today. And I believe all of them are relevant to our collaboration with Uzbekistan.

Let me take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Government for the support in opening an FAO Office in Tashkent.

This will help us strengthen our long-term partnership and implementation of new large-scale projects.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In a globalized world, we need to work together to meet our food security and sustainability challenges.

I welcome the opportunity provided by this conference to touch upon some of these issues. In a globalized world, it is not possible for a country alone to be food secure if its neighbors are hungry.

I would like to point out that more than 840 million people still suffer from hunger in the world, despite the fact that the world already produces enough food at the aggregate level.

 This happens because the main cause of hunger today is the inadequate access to food.

Our goal is to bring this number down to zero, responding to the Zero Hunger Challenge launched by the United Nations Secretary-General at the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference.

Hunger is the most tragic side of malnutrition, but it is not the only one. Around half of the world’s population is affected by some form of malnutrition, including hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity, among others.

The action needed to resolve these issues will be discussed in depth at the Second International Conference on Nutrition.

I hope you will be able to join this meeting that will begin on November 14 at FAO Headquarters, co-organized by the World Health Organization and other international agencies and partners.

I would like to highlight that the human and socio-economic cost of inaction is too high. The multiple burdens of malnutrition cause a loss of up to 5 percent in the world’s economic product.

Because of all this, the promotion of nutrition is a public responsibility. Governments need to play a leading role in ensuring adequate nutrition.

I would also to emphasize the importance of shifting to more sustainable and inclusive food systems.

Food systems that guarantee food security for all, including those that lack the means to produce or buy the food they need.

And that are environmentally sustainable. Today, we are seeing how the need to increase food production to feed a growing population puts a huge strain on natural resources.

That is why I insist that sustainability is key: in production and in consumption. We need to reduce food loss and waste. And we need to produce in ways that limit environmental impact.

It is of the utmost importance that the quest for increased productivity respects the natural resource base and is guided by principles of sustainability, along the value chain. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I have said, the world faces challenges related to ensuring adequate food security and nutrition for all, to ensuring sustainable development and to combating rural poverty.

I would like to highlight one sector that can play a key role in responding to all these challenges: family farmers.

For a long time they were considered part of the problem of hunger. But, in fact, they are a central part of the solution to the food security challenge.

Family farmers can increase the local availability of healthy and fresh food, thus helping improve nutrition.

Family farmers tend to favor diversified production and better care for natural resources, thus contributing to sustainability.

As you know, 2014 has been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Family Farming.

It provides an occasion to highlight the role that family farmers play in reaching the sustainable future we want. I invite you to join us in these efforts.

I hope that we can have an event in Uzbekistan to celebrate the International Year of Family Farming, of which FAO is in charge of the coordination on behalf of the UN system.

Mr President,

Uzbekistan has already done a lot. And it has the potential to do much more.

Count on FAO to work with you on this path towards food security and sustainable development.

Thank you very much for your attention.