H.E. Sundram Pushpanathan, Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN
for ASEAN Economic Community,
Distinguished delegates from ASEAN Plus Three countries,
Colleagues from UN Agencies and other international organizations,
Distinguished civil society representatives from the region,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning to you all.
On behalf of the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and my colleagues at the FAO Regional Office in Bangkok, I have great pleasure in welcoming you all to the Regional Consultation on Food Security in the ASEAN region. We are delighted to co-organize this important Consultation with the ASEAN Secretariat, with which FAO has long been collaborating together in serving our Member Countries in reducing poverty and hunger. This Consultation is organized on the basis of efforts that the international community has made since the soaring food prices in 2007-2008, particularly in ASEAN Region.
As you know, the food price crisis of 2007-2008 pushed the prices of basic staples beyond the reach of millions of poor people. In 2007 alone an additional 75 million poor people fell below the hunger threshold – of which more than half, or 41 million people, were from the Asia-Pacific region. The financial crisis, following closely on the heels of the food price crisis, further increased the number of food insecure. It reached over one billion last year. Today, 925 million people worldwide are undernourished, of which 62 percent or 578 million people are in Asia and the Pacific.
While world food prices have come down from their peak in April 2008, they still remain higher than the pre-crisis levels. Moreover, they have not declined commensurately in many developing countries due to domestic demand/supply conditions and policies. The FAO food price index for October 2010 was 197 which is still 60 percent higher than in October 2006. Further, the food price index is 25 percent higher than just one year ago. In particular, we have recently witnessed the soaring of international wheat prices since July due to the drought induced production shortfalls in the CIS exporting countries and the export ban by the Russian Federation. In October, the bench mark US wheat price slightly down, but the price still 60 percent higher from just 3 months ago, and 37 percent higher than a year ago. This is happening when the world produces sufficient food and keeping sufficient food stock as a reserve. In summary, presently, cereal prices remain high and volatile and are thus affecting the food security of the poor, both food producers and consumers, who are often ill-equipped to manage their production or income against unexpected market conditions. Indeed, food market prices became extremely sensitive to external shocks. Moreover, the world is expected to increase food production by 70 percent by 2050. To meet the demand of the growing population, the world has to increase food production by 70 percent (100 percent for developing countries alone). This has to be achieved under existing constraints such as water scarcity, negative impact of climate changes and natural disasters, competition of land and water between food crops and bio-energy crops, stagnation of crop productivity, degradation of natural resources, etc.
Thus, the world is facing both short-term food insecurity threat affected by volatile food prices and long-term uncertainty due to future population increase. This situation has raised serious concerns for the food security and socio-economic welfare of the poor, especially for women and children who most suffered both globally and in this region. The situation also threatens to undermine progress towards the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating hunger and achievement of other Millennium targets, particularly with respect to education, child and maternal mortality reduction, and containing the spread of major diseases. If present trend continues, the MDG goal of halving the proportion of hunger to the bench mark target of 10 percent by the year 2015 would be extremely difficult as it stands at 16 percent now with only 5 years remain to achieve. This Consultation intends to facilitate policy dialogue and decisions on regional cooperation and actions to deal with the threats to food security and strengthen it in the long-term.
As you are aware, the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific has been collaborating with the ASEAN Secretariat to facilitate concerted efforts among the member counties and their partners to enhance food security in the ASEAN region. Recent efforts have focused on strengthening partnerships and collaboration among ASEAN and the United Nations Agencies as well as with multilateral and bilateral development partners and civil society organizations. Exactly two years ago, FAO and the ASEAN Secretariat organized, with the support of the Government of the Philippines, the ASEAN-UN Meeting in Manila. This meeting produced a convergence matrix aligning the ASEAN Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security in the ASEAN Region (SPA-FS) with the UN-led Comprehensive Framework of Action (CFA) of the High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis with a view to facilitating identification and implementation of actions in priority areas. This was followed by the ASEAN-FAO Regional Conference on Food Security in May 2009 in Bangkok which brought together a wider participation of stakeholders to discuss the details for collaboration and partnership.
As you may have noted from the agenda, this regional consultation seeks to (a) review the progress in the implementation of the Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security in the ASEAN Region (SPA-FS) and the Convergence Matrix, (b) discuss and identify the key policy issues and priority actions to strengthen food security in the ASEAN region for consideration by the next SOM-AMAF and (iii) discuss the modality and mechanisms for coordination, monitoring, follow-up and reporting of the implementation of the AIFS Framework and the SPA-FS.
Finally, I wish to thank you for taking the time despite your busy schedules to be with us today. Your presence today is a testimony to the importance and priority attached to the objectives of this consultation by you, your governments and organizations.
I also take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the ASEAN Secretariat, the co-organizer of this regional consultation, and the Asian Development Bank and the FAO-EC Food Security Programme for their co-sponsoring this event.
I wish you all fruitful and productive discussions.
Thank you very much.