Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

SPEECH
by
Hiroyuki Konuma
FAO Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
on

“The outlook for food supply and demand in the Asia-Pacific region and
the need to increase agricultural production”

delivered at
The 1st APEC Ministerial Meeting on Food Security
Niigata, Japan
16 October 2010




Your Excellency, Mr Michihiko Kano, Honourable Minister of Agriculture,
  Forestry and Fisheries of Japan,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

        On behalf of the Director-General of FAO, Dr Jaque Diouf, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the Government of Japan and APEC for inviting FAO in this historical gathering at the heart of best rice producing province, Niigata where my ancestor is originated from.

        Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Household food security is the application of this concept to the family level, with individuals within households as the focus of concern.

        FAO’s most recent estimates on undernourishment indicate that world hunger increased to more than a billion people in 2009 due to high food prices and the global economic crisis.  Both the number and proportion of hungry people have declined in 2010 as the global economy recovers and food prices remain below their peak levels to 925 million people or 16 percent of the developing country population. However, this is yet very far from the MDG No.1 goal of 10 percent to be achieved by 2015. Indeed, 62 percent or nearly two thirds of them still remain in Asia and the Pacific region. This poses the international community with serious challenges in its effort to meet the internationally agreed goals. 
 
        The fundamental problem underlining increasing in world chronic hunger is the fact that the poor have no means to buy or produce the food they need for a healthy and active life.  In the last two crises, there have not been significant shortfalls in global production and supply.  Access to food by the poor and disadvantaged groups in society who are very vulnerable to external shocks, including children, pregnant women and lactating mothers, has been the fundamental problem.

        Increasing agricultural production and productivity in developing countries, especially by smallholder farmers and poor agricultural households, is an important way of enhancing incomes of the poor who depend on agriculture and activities linked to agriculture. It is also important for keeping prices in local markets low. Therefore, agriculture and food production can be keys to food security.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

        FAO projections show that it is possible to meet the future food and feed demand of the projected world population in 2050 within realistic yields developments and rates of expansion of land and water use. However, achieving the projected increase in production requires meeting several significant challenges not lease of which is substantial investments in agriculture and the rural economy. The amount of capital required in developing countries to achieve the production levels indicated in the FAO outlook to 2050 calls for a net average annual investment of USD 83 billion (2009 prices). This figure includes both expected public and private investment.

        Food consumption in the Asia and the Pacific region is expected to increase substantially towards 2030 and further to 2050, following population growth. Urbanization and the expected income growth indicate that dietary patterns are undergoing significant change towards higher animal protein content. Rice consumption is expected to grow by 11 percent between 2010 and 2050, reaching a volume of 613 million tons in this region. But the consumption and utilization of maize and wheat are set to increase much faster, by 79 percent and 47 percent in the same period. The differential growth patterns for those commodities reflect increasing demand for livestock products and the expected expansion of livestock production and consumption in the Region. This will affect the maize market, the consumption and utilization of which is expected to double the level observed in 2005-07, reaching 375 million tons in 2050. On the other hand, consumption of some of other staples is projected to shrink; this is the case of millet and sorghum, the consumption and utilization of which is estimated to become less than 10 million tons in 2050, respectively.

        Rice production is projected to increase in the Asia-Pacific Region at an average annual rate of 0.62 percent between 2010/2030 and 0.34 percent between 2010/2050, reaching 662 million tons in 2050. This corresponds to an increase in net exports, which would reach to nearly 50 million tons in 2050. Maize production is projected to increase faster, at an annual rate of 1.9 percent between 2010/2030 and 1.4 percent between 2010/2050, stimulated by the expected demand growth. The total volume of production is projected to increase by 145 million tons between 2010 and 2050. Production of wheat is projected to increase at an average annual rate of 1.0 percent between 2010/2030 and 0.7 percent between 2010/2050. Wheat production is expected to reach 301 million tons in 2050, corresponding to a 32 percent increase over the 2010 volume. 
 
        Changes in consumption and production are expected to affect the trade position of the Region. As indicated earlier, rice exports are projected to increase significantly by 67 percent, reaching about 50 million tons by the year 2050. Imports of wheat and maize are also expected to increase considerably by 2050 due to rapid increase in demand and estimated shortfall in production in the region to meet the demand. The increase in wheat import is also the consequence of the expected diversification of diets and of urbanization; the volume is projected to reach 71 million tons in 2050, which is about six times the one observed around the year 2000. Maize imports are projected to increase at a fast pace, reaching 38 million tons in 2050, that is four times the volume recorded at the beginning of the century.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

        Having talked a lot about cereal production, we should not forget the importance of crop and agricultural diversification which should be promoted in parallel with cereal crop intensification programme to promote the supply and access of protein, vitamins and micro nutrients which are the key to tackle fundamental problems of malnutrition.

        In addition, there are at least two major uncertainties which can significantly affect the outlined picture: one is climate change and the other is biofuel development. Projected impacts of climate change on agricultural production tend to agree that the Southern Hemisphere may suffer the greatest share of the damage in terms of declining yields and frequency of extreme droughts and floods. The Asia Pacific Region seems to be facing, among others, also the challenge of more erratic supply pattern. On biofuel, projections are wide-ranging and sensitive to technology assumptions, as well as to policy assumptions. The potential exists for competition on land and water use between food and fuel production.

        In summary, the Region has the potential to meet the challenge of increasing food production to meet the shifting demand of its population and to reduce hunger. Robust economic growth will certainly contribute to poverty reduction and better food security. On the other hand, recent stagnation of the production and productivity growth of some of food crops in the region such as wheat which recorded an annual average production growth of only 0.2 percent and yield growth of 0.5 percent during the period between 1997 and 2007 poses concern.

        Finally, I wish to stress the need of a strategic approach by combining agricultural growth with poverty reduction, food and nutrition security, trade and market facilitation, other support services and sustainable natural resource management which will combine investments and incentives and will involve all stakeholders in its design and implementation.

        Today, 16 October, is the “World Food Day” for which people all over the world are reaffirming the importance of food in our human life and human security, and recognizing the importance of this year’s theme “United Against Hunger”. It is our obligation to produce more food at an affordable price to meet the needs of our children and new generations to come which our concerted efforts and united actions are indispensable.

        Thank you.