Your Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Director-General of FAO, José Graziano da Silva and my own behalf, I have a great honor to welcome all of you to the World Food Day Regional Observance in 2012.
We are specifically honored by the presence of Her Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. On behalf of FAO staff, I wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to Your Royal Highness for your gracious acceptance to join today’s World Food Day cerebration.
We are also privileged to have the presence of Mr Hisao Azuma, former Vice Minister of Agriculture, Japan and former Senior Vice President of JICA, who is invited as a keynote speaker to share the story of Japanese agricultural cooperatives.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The theme of the World Food Day this year is “Agricultural cooperatives: key to feeding the world” which is specifically relevant for our region, as our region is the home of many successful agricultural cooperatives and farmer organizations. I also recall that new trend of recent agricultural cooperative movement was originated from Asia; more specifically from a remote village in Bangladesh several decades ago. Agricultural cooperatives are now all over the world and serving as self-help and self-motivated farmer institutions or enterprises established by farmers themselves. In Asia and the Pacific region ,where 70-80 percent of the total number of farmers are small scale farmers who produce majority of foods in the region, the agricultural cooperatives and farmer organizations play extremely important and vital role in supporting individual small farmer and promoting food security in the region and beyond.
The role of agricultural cooperatives and farmer organizations became more important in recent past, as the impacts of rapid globalization and trade liberalization have forced farmers for critical choices, either to become more competitive to meet the market demand and leap the opportunity for further growth or otherwise. Indeed, if they opt to remain in farming, they have to adjust their production system to respond to the needs of local and global markets. Rapid expansion of hypermarket and supermarket chains, on other hand, made small scale farmers more vulnerable to competitions. If standing alone, each small scale farmer has fewer opportunities. Standing as a group, they can compete and succeed in a modern and competitive business climate with an access to stronger negotiation power, credit facilities and organized marketing as well as opportunities for skill training to produce quality and safety products to meet market demands.
There are many good examples. In Thailand, Swift Company Limited started contract farming in 1986 with farmers’ groups to grow predetermined types and quantities of horticulture products such as asparagus. Swift set out to remove middlemen by guaranteeing a fair fixed price to farmers, which was negotiated annually. Swift provided skill training to farmers’ groups to ensure quality and safety of farm products to meet global standards such as EUROGAP, and facilitated to export the products to overseas market. The company extended its approach to farmers’ groups in Laos in collaboration with FAO and IFAD recently.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the occasion of the World Food Day today, I wish to reiterate once again the important role of agricultural cooperatives and farmer organizations in supporting small scale farmers and promoting food security. I wish to thank them for their continued efforts and wish to look forward for their further expansion. I also wish to stress the importance of bottom up and participatory process in managing agricultural cooperatives, in order to ensure that they represent the voices of farmers, and avoid criticisms that they became too much politically oriented and bureaucratic.
Your Royal Highness,
With your permission, I wish to highlight the key messages of FAO, WFP and IFAD joint report “ The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI)” which was released just last week. The report is a special one which revised world hunger population back to the year 1990, based on up- dated more reliable data on population, food supply, food losses, dietary energy requirements and others. I am happy to announce that based on revised figures, world chronic hunger population is now counted as 870 million lowered from previous estimate of 925 million. This is a better news as the number declined, but it still means that one person in every eight goes hungry. In addition, the proportion of chronic hunger in total population has declined from 18.6 percent in 1990-92 to 12.5 percent in 2010-12. For developing countries alone, it declined from 23.2 percent to 14.9 percent during the same period.
As regard to Thailand, the revised figures indicate significant decline with the undernourishment rate of 7.3 percent in 2010-12, which is lower than that of Vietnam (9 percent), Indonesia (8.6 percent) and China (11.5 percent). This means that Thailand has already achieved MDG hunger target. We respectfully acknowledge Thailand’s efforts in improving the nutritional status of people.
For Asia and the Pacific Region, the total chronic hunger population remains the highest with 563 million in 2010-12 which constitute 65 percent or two thirds of the world total. it declined from 23.7 percent to 13.9 percent for the same period due to largely socio economic progress in many countries in the region. This gives us a great encouragement and hope to attain MDG No.1 hunger goal in this region by 2015 which will be 11.9 percent as the target, against present level of 13.9 percent.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Having said above, it is totally unacceptable that in the world of plenty, more than 100 million children below the age of five are underweight and the children malnutrition is a cause of death for more than 2.5 million children every year. In Sub-Saharan Africa, one person in every four goes hungry. In addition, 30 percent of the world total population (2.1 billion) suffers from micro-nutrient malnutrition, while over weight and obesity and associated non communicable diseases such as diabetes affecting more than 1.4 billion people world-wide. The world produces more or less sufficient food to meet with the demand of every one. Yet, 870 million people goes to bed with hungry stomach every day, while 1.4 billion people are suffering from overweight largely due to excess food intake . In developed countries and advanced economies in Asia such as Thailand, 15-20 percent of foods are wasted after they reached dining table.
Food is a fundamental human right. Everyone has a right to access to adequate and nutritionally balanced diet. Yet the world failed to support each other to meet this essential human right and we live in the world of inequality, inequity and injustice, which may risk to threat our fundamental moral and ethical obligation as a global citizen, and would risk social stability and world peace.
Finally, I wish to convey my gratitude once again for your presence this morning. On the occasion of World Food Day, I wish to express the importance of creating a sense of strong social solidarity and partnership at all levels to help each other ,and to help those suffering from hunger and malnutrition.