Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

WELCOME SPEECH
 
by

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

delivered at the

 Asia-Pacific Observance of World Food Day 2010

Bangkok, Thailand
18 October 2009





Your Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn,
Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary General of ASEN,
Excellences,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

 
On behalf of the Director-General of FAO, Jacques Diouf, my colleagues and on my own behalf, I have great pleasure in welcoming you all to the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific for this year's World Food Day Observance.

We are honoured by the presence of Her Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. We are grateful to you, Your Royal Highness, for your gracious acceptance of our invitation to preside over the World Food Day Observance here today for the Asian and the pacific region. We are also very fortunate to have the Secretary General of ASEAN, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan with us today as our keynote speaker who is well known as the dynamic leader of ASEAN.

This year’s World Food Day is organized at a very special time when volatile food prices and market uncertainties became our concern once again, due to the severe drought in Russia and surrounding countries in July which still keeps international wheat price at 55 percent higher than the price at the beginning in July. It also resulted in the social unrest in Mozambique due to the sudden price increase of breads in the market which resulted in deaths and hundred of injuries. This was happened when there was no world food shortage and when this year was well in track to achieve 3rd highest world cereal production records in the history.  Indeed, at present we produce enough food to meet the demand of everyone in the world. Yet the world food market became so sensitive to external shocks.

You can imagine, if our salary remains unchanged and the price of food goes up by 50 percent , we can practically buy only a half amount of food we and our family require to fill the stomach or we would likely choose to spend extra money from our savings  or borrow money to pay double cost to fill stomach.  However, in case the poor, whose food expenditures, in many cases, represent over 50 to 60 percent of their total incomes and having very limited savings if not nil, would have no other choices to cope with the situation rather than going to bed with hungry stomach.  As a result, the number of chronic hunger jumped to over one billion in 2009, two thirds (or 62 percent) of which live in this region. Globally, one child die every 6 seconds, 14,000 children die every day and 5 million children die every year due to direct or indirect cause of chronic hunger.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is actually happening, not a bad dream. Mozambique’s case is an example which could be happened in other places.  We remember that the same happened in Somalia in 2008.  In 21st century of modern world when we enjoy with advanced technology and life style, this is happening in a same planet. I felt to share my thoughts today at the “World Food Day” when we have given an opportunity to think about food and food security.

Having said above, food security situation has been improved in general in past one year reflecting lower food prices and good economic recovery. The number of chronic hunger in the world declined to 925 million or 16 percent of the total population as at September 2010, although this figure is still far from the MDG target of 10 percent to be achieved by the year 2015. 

However, the real challenge on food security lies on medium and long-term.

To feed growing population, which would reach 9.1 billion in 2050, the world has to increase food production by 70 percent, but if we look at only developing countries, we have to increase the production by 100 percent, under existing constraints of frequent occurrence of natural disasters and negative impact of climate changes, degradation of lands, scarcity of natural resources, especially land and water in the regional and their competition with bio-energy crops.   Stagnation of crop production and productivity growth is another concern. The fact is that the average annual  production growth of cereals in past 10 years from 1997 to 2007 in Asia could only attain 0.2 percent for wheat (0.5 percent yield growth) and 0.8 percent for rice (0.8 percent yield growth), with an exception of maize reflecting a wide availability of hybrid maize and growth of urban and semi-urban poultry production for which maize is a major part of feed formulation. 

 In medium-term (2000-2030), we project that cereal production be increased about 43 percent by year 2030, which require about 1.2 percent average annual growth in cereals during the period. Otherwise,  production may not meet the demand and might result in social conflict, especially in developing countries where the vast majority of population growth would occur. 

The green revolution tripled (300 % increase) the cereal production in 40 years between 1961 and 2000 in Asia as a result of introduction/adoption of modern varieties of cereals, especially wheat and rice, expansion of irrigated areas, rapid increase of chemical fertilizer use and farm mechanization. This was resulted in the decline of world market price of cereals in real term by 40 percent and benefitted consumers, especially the poor. As a consequence, world hunger population fallen from 35 percent in 1970 to 17 percent in 2000.

On the other hand, food became available at a cheap price and affordable to almost everyone, less profit to producers, lack of incentives to agricultural growth and resulted in less interest in agriculture sector.

Consequently, the investment in agriculture declined sharply in past three decades.  Annual growth rate on agricultural research and development (R&D) declined to less than a half since 1976, and the share of agriculture in the total ODA declined from 19 percent in 1980 to 3.5 percent in 2005 and to 5 percent in 2007. The share of revenue budget to agriculture sector in many of developing countries declined sharply as well.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Food is not just a food available everywhere as it has been so far, but might become a source of conflict which influences social and political stability, and human security of the world, if we fail to attain expected production growth.

We need to increase investment in agriculture. We need investment in agricultural research and extension, inputs supply, infrastructure, value chain development, capacity building as well as other support services and safety nets.  FAO expects that 80 percent of growth in crop production in developing countries would come from crop intensification, in particular higher yields and increase in cropping intensity.  Only 20 percent would come from expansion of arable land.

FAO estimates that the region would require agricultural investment (both public and private sector) of US$ 120 billion annually towards year 2050 for which 50 percent increase in agricultural investment is needed against present level of US$ 80 billion.

We are very pleased that the L’Aquila G8 Summit last year brought “agriculture” and ”food security” back to the top of the priority agenda of world community  and  resulted in the pledge of over 20 billion US dollars to support the sustainable food production in developing countries.  This momentum should be maintained and further promoted even if the food prices come down and financial crisis over, as a real food security problem lies in our future and on our future generation.

Your Royal Highness,
Excellencies, and Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have huge tasks ahead of us to accomplish. I fully believe that we can attain the goal if we are united, and work together in a partnership. Both young and old, rich and poor, bringing all in the society and promote a sense of solidarity together as we are all dependent each other on the planet. Indeed, the Green Revolution had increased cereal production by 300 percent and halved the proportion of hunger in 40 years time. The target in front of us is 70 percent for the same duration of 40 years towards 2050, which should be attainable if we fully utilize the wisdom gained from past experiences and unite ourselves in a concerted effort. It is our duty to produce more foods at an affordable price to meet the nutrient requirement of all citizens in the planet, including those left behind of economic growth, and of our children and future generation to come.

Thank you for your attention.