Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

RAP press conference – Hunger in Asia-Pacific
1 June 2010  11.30 hrs.


STATEMENT

by

Hiroyuki Konuma
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific



Ladies and gentlemen from the media, colleagues and friends

First of all, I wish to welcome you to today’s Press Conference which is specifically aimed at to seek your support to promote awareness and solidarity of the global community on the issues of most fundamental human right “food”.

The multiple crises of fuel, food price and financial crisis over the past 4 years has been affecting the poor vulnerable world population seriously.

The price of crude oil still remains almost 4 times high if compared with the price less than twenty dollars per barrel ten years ago.  The price of food remains about 20% high from that of 3 years ago in 2007.

The world struggled to overcome from the crisis, but again affected by the financial crisis.  These combinations of negative factors made the vulnerable population in the world extremely difficult and they are at the risk of losing their fundamental human right “right to food”.

As a result, the number of chronic hunger in the world exceeded one billion, one billion people now.  Especially in the past 1 years the number increased over 100 million.

The world has committed to attain UN Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, but instead of reducing the proportion of hunger from 20% to 10 % by 2015, the percentage still remain at around 17% today.

The World Summit on Food Security held in 1996 committed to reduce the number of chronic hunger by half by year 2015 from 840 million to 420 million by 2015.  Instead it increased to 1 billion.  This is not acceptable!

As a consequence, one in six people globally, lives in chronic hunger.  One child is dying every six seconds, 14,000 die of hunger every day and 5 million children die every year from chronic hunger.

This is unacceptable!

Asia and the Pacific Region holds the highest number of chronic hungry of 642 million, two thirds of the world hunger.

The number increased over 10% in one year between 2008 and 2009 in the region, proportionally to correspond to the increase in Sub-Sahara Arica.

The Green revolution started in 1960s made Asia’s food grain production triple – 300 % increase in past 40 years, facilitate for deduction of food price by 40 % in real term and contributed to reduce the proportion of hunger from 34 % in 1970 to 16% in 2006.

However, since the Green Revolution started, the first time, the proportion of chronic hunger increased in Asia and the Pacific to 17 – 18 % in 2009 from that of 16% in 2006.

Moreover the annual production growth of food, especially cereals stagnated in past 10 years to the level of about 1% while the desired growth rate of about 1.8 – 2.0 % per year, to meet the future demand in the next 20 – 40 years

In parallel, there is an awakening in the global governance of food security in which FAO, along with other development partners, plays a more visible role in various forums across the continents.

Driven by these events, food security and agriculture are back as a priority on the global development agenda for the first time after the Green Revolution.

This was urgently needed, as the global economic slow-down has put over one billion people in chronic hunger for the first time in human history. One child dies in every six seconds, and 5 million children lose their lives every year due to hunger.

At the G8+ summit in L’Aquila in 2009 the global leadership pledged more than US$ 20 billion over three years to support food security and long-term agricultural development. US President Obama declared the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, known as Feed the Future. The World Summit on Food Security in Rome in November last year reaffirmed those pledges and the principles for meeting the immediate need and ensuring sustainable food security for all. Recently, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) was announced, and multiple country-led agricultural development programmes are underway to quickly increase food production – often with FAO assistance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed my conviction that investment in agriculture is the answer to the problems. Comprehensive and inclusive responses are needed for the short, medium and long-term in all dimensions of food security. I want to stressed only a few of the most burning issues which need immediate attention.

1.   Food production needs to double in developing countries between now and 2050. This may seems a massive challenge, and it surely is so indeed. But let us also remember that during the Green Revolution, food production was doubled over a period of 20 years only – based mainly on scientific breakthroughs. Considering the 50 years time span and the ever increasing pace of technological breakthroughs, I am convinced we can do it again. Science-based solutions are needed and possible, in particular to respond to new challenges such as climate change.

2.   The recent surge of interest in foreign investment in agricultural land has aroused substantial international concern. (Jounalists have called this “the land grab”.) Certainly, complex and controversial economic, political, institutional, legal and ethical issues are raised in relation to property rights, rural development, technology and access to land and water. On the other hand, lack of investment in agriculture over decades has meant continuing low productivity and stagnand production in many developing countries. FAO estimates that gross annual investments of USD209 billion are needed in primary agriculture and downstream services in developing countries to meet global food needs in 2050. Foreign direct investment in developing country agriculture could make a contribution to realizing the hunger and poverty goals.

The above priorities are set within the context of the fastest changing region in the world. Asia is the future. A region which is experiencing the changing nature of poverty and food insecurity; increasing pressure on the natural resources base; the need to adjust to globalization and coping with external chocks to food and nutrition security; and coping with the impact of climate change.

It are the evolving socio-economic and political contexts which will eventually drive progress in the fight against hunger and poverty. Indeed, the aspired innovations require sincere governmental and intergovernmental efforts, integrated planning and an inclusive process that involves civil society, private sectors and all other stakeholders.

FAO’s recently launched 1BillionHungry project is a global e-communication campaign which underpins the need for broad coalitions and joint efforts. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I will keep this introduction short allowing for more time for you to raise questions.

Allow me however to add that achievements in agriculture ultimately depend on farmers who have to withstand the challenges thrown at them by nature and by man. Our efforts should ensure sufficient support to supplement the farmers’ bravery so as to attain sustainability in national production, ensure fair entry in an open market system for the farmers, and guarantee fair price for both the farmers and consumers. Above all,  access to safe and nutritious food by all who are living today and for the generations to come is our ultimate common goal.

Thank you.