Ladies and Gentlemen,
I should like, first of all, to express my deep gratitude to His Excellency Batbold Sukhbaatar, Prime Minister of Mongolia, who is kindly hosting this forum. On behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, I should also like to thank the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry, Mongolian Food Industry Association and the Fredrick Ebert Foundation for organizing this important meeting. We are greatly honored and privileged to participate in this important event.
Country experiences in Asia and elsewhere in the world have shown that food security can be achieved through the right combination of policies, technologies and institutions. Long-term investments are required to increase the productivity, sustainability, and resiliency of agriculture, especially among smallholder farmers, many of whom live in absolute poverty and are malnourished. FAO assisted the Government of Mongolia in developing the National Food Security Programme. Fostering agricultural development and safeguarding food security and food safety constitute a major component of this programme. Furthermore, I am pleased to inform you that, at the Government’s request, FAO has initiated preparation of the Country Programming Framework (CPF) for Mongolia to prioritise its assistance to the country.
Millions of poor, small farmers struggle to raise output on tiny plots of degraded land, far from the nearest market. Lacking access to adequate tools, quality seeds, credit, and agricultural extension, and being highly susceptible to the vagaries of weather, they are most vulnerable to food insecurity. Investing more in research and extension, irrigation, rural infrastructure and support services and linking them to markets would enable small farmers to adopt new technologies and modern farming methods. Improving the productivity of smallholders is crucial for food security and poverty reduction. However, it should be achieved through sustainable technologies and farming practices that are simple to adopt, financially rewarding and ecologically sound.
To achieve nutrition and health goals, efforts to raise agricultural productivity should be complemented with measures to enhance the quality and safety of foods. Raising awareness of good nutritional and food safety practices should be promoted through capacity building measures involving relevant stakeholders at all levels from food production to processing, handling and marketing and to preparing and serving. Attention should be paid to improving nutrition through diversification of production systems and by enhancing the dietary diversity and nutrient density of foods. Measures to improve food safety should focus on reducing contaminants in the food supply. Considering the maternal health and child nutrition challenges in this region, at the household level, raising the nutrition and food safety awareness of women is particularly important.
As you are aware, the global food system is in a vulnerable situation as the level of food production is barely keeping pace with the level of food utilization. One of the reasons for the increase and sharp swings in food prices has been a lowering of the food stock to utilization ratios. The imperative of increasing productivity sustainably to meet the increased food requirements for 9.1 billon people in 2050, compared to 7 billion now, is obvious. Concerted efforts are required at policy and implementation levels by relevant sectors and disciplines. Public policies must give high priority to agriculture and allocate more resources to this sector. It should also ensure an enabling policy environment and effective institutions.
This forum is very timely and provides an excellent opportunity for the exchange of views on recent developments and to discuss ways to design, coordinate and implement sound policies and programmes to tackle the immediate problem of high and volatile food prices, and to address the fundamental and long-term challenges of extreme poverty and hunger.
Finally, I wish to reaffirm FAO’s continued, priority commitment to support Mongolia in its efforts to attain food security and sustainable development.
I wish you all success and fruitful discussions at this national forum.