Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

WELCOME ADDRESS

by

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

delivered at the

ASEAN High Level Regional Consultation on
Integrating Nutrition into ASEAN Food Security Framework and its Strategic Plan of Action

29 to 31 January 2013
Bangkok, Thailand

 

Your Excellency, Yim Chhay Ly, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia
Your Excellency, Nirut Kunnawat, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Science and Technology, The Government of Thailand
Excellencies,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to this meeting. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the ASEAN secretariat for their great support and partnership in preparation and organization of this meeting. I am very pleased to see the exceptional level of participation to this meeting, which shows the commitment and importance of the consultation.
Please accept my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to all of you for your participation and spending your valuable time for this event despite of busy schedule. I also thank the Royal Government of Thailand for hosting this important event.

Food insecurity and malnutrition continue to be major challenges in many countries, especially in Asia which is a home of two-thirds of world undernourished population. The global prevalence of malnutrition and hunger remains unacceptably high. FAO estimates that nearly 870 million people (12.5 percent of the global population) or one in eight people were undernourished in 2010-12 period. The vast majority of them live in developing countries. One in three developing country’s children under the age of five (171 million children) are stunted due to chronic undernutrition. Micronutrient malnutrition or “hidden hunger” affects around 2 billion people (over 30% of the world population) with serious public health consequences.

At the same time, over one billion people are suffering from over intake of food. Indeed, obesity rates have increased drastically in some countries over the last 30 years. 43 million children under five years of age are overweight, and obesity affects around 500 million adults, increasingly in low and middle income countries, with consequences ranging from increased risk of premature death to serious chronic health conditions including an increase in the prevalence of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

Ladies and gentleman,

We are living in the world, where more or less sufficient food is produced globally to meet the demand of everyone. Yet, nearly one billion people suffer from lack of sufficient food, and the same number of people or even more suffering from over intake of food. Nearly 20 % of foods are wasted in developed countries after they were cooked and reached on our dining  table. There are many things in the world which do not seems to be reasonable, but this is a typical and the most serious fact of social injustice, which we have been so silent.

Food insecurity and malnutrition are caused by a complex interplay of economic, social, environmental and behavioral factors that prevent people from consuming and fully benefiting from healthy diets. The most immediate causes of malnutrition thus are inadequate dietary intake of nutritionally balanced foods, inappropriate food choices including inadequate breastfeeding, poor complementary feeding and caring practices, and infectious disease combined with poor health mediated by lack of access to clean water and sanitation and inadequate health services.

The persistence of malnutrition can also be seen as the outcome of a failed development process:  agriculture and trade policies have sometimes focused solely on the economic dimension of development. Priority has gone to value chains and economic consideration of specific commodities, and in particular cereals.  At present, 60 % of world calories intakes are supplied by 4 major food commodities; rice, wheat , maize and potato. A large portion of investments in research and development are focused on these specific commodities. National policies have tended to underestimate local specificities, and indigenous and underutilized food resources. These have resulted in change in local farming systems and food consumption patterns, associated in some cases with environmental degradation, increased socio-economic disparities and vulnerability to crises.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The global population is projected to increase from 7 billion today to 9.2 billion by 2050, with practically all of the increase expected to take place in less developed countries. Diets are changing, including growing demand for animal and fish products. Together these factors mean that global food demand is estimated to increase by 60 per cent worldwide or 77 per cent in developing countries alone by 2050. In Southeast Asia, per capita calorie consumption per day is expected to increase very rapidly from around 2,700 kcal per person per day in 2005-07 to nearly 3,200 kcal per person per day.

At the same time there are multiple challenges facing the stability and sustainability of the food system and the achievement of food and nutrition security. The world's ecosystems and biodiversity are under extreme pressure from overexploitation and degradation. In Asia, there is a very little room for the expansion of arable land. Some of countries have already recorded a decline of arable land due to the expansion of industry, housing and other use.  There is increasing environmental degradation of productive land and other productive natural resources. Over the past 40 years, approximately 30 percent of the world's cropland (1.5 billion hectares) has become unproductive. Levels of groundwater are declining as a consequence of over-use and water resources are becoming more and more scarce. Negative impact of climate changes and natural disasters as well as increasing competition of natural resource use between bio-energy crops and food crops are other emerging factors influencing food security.

All of the above issues, pose serious concern for food security and nutrition in the region, and particularly for feeding future generations. While increasing food productivity from existing land is a key priority, there is a need to recognise the  impacts of high levels of food losses and waste. The food loss and waste is under recognized global issue in the effort to combat food insecurity and malnutrition. It is estimated that around 30-50 percent global food is wasted during post-harvest period and consumption stage. These losses are as high as 50 percent for fruits and vegetables and – 37 percent  for rice. They result largely from poorly functioning food supply chain systems and the recognition of importance of food by consumers.

Many countries are currently struggling with the growing problem of food waste due to population growth and urbanization. Food waste is caused by retailers, the food service sector  and consumers discarding edible food stuff and left-over food into the garbage.  Table waste, is in a number of cases, directly linked to cultural habits. In recent times, table waste in urban centres has been ascribed to the lack of recognition by urban consumers of the linkages of food to agricultural production systems.

Food losses and wastes reduce food availability and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.  They also represent the wastage of inputs -  water, energy, fertilisers, labour and capital - used in food production, distribution and disposal. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is clear that no single sector can address food insecurity and malnutrition in isolation. Multisectoral approaches that address food, care and health are required. Agriculture and food sector interventions can raise producers income, improve availability, affordability, acceptability, quality and diversity of food; and help people make better food choices. Thus food and agriculture interventions are indispensible part of the essential needs to eradicate food insecurity and malnutrition, and achieving good health. Food safety and one health approach with human and animal interface are also important parts of combined efforts among agriculture, food and health sectors. Interventions in other sectors – health care,  water and sanitation, education, gender, and social welfare are essential as well. Political leadership , good governance and multi-sectoral coordination at regional and country level, leading to integrated multi-sectoral action, are crucial in integrating nutrition into a country’s agriculture, rural development and food security strategy.

There is need to support for the formulation of nutrition-sensitive policies and strategies, education and the setting up of collaboration mechanisms between agriculture, food, health, education and social protection sectors. Future agriculture should also include a nutritional dimensions through diversification of smallholder agriculture, promoting production of micronutrient rich food, especially local varieties and species, monitoring nutrition related outcomes and supporting agricultural research conducted from nutrition perspective.

Finally, I would with to extend once again our sincere gratitude and appreciation to all the individuals, organizations, governments and international partners for joining to this consultation. Based on your contributions, this two day meeting is expected to come up with key recommendations that will be presented at ASEAN Joint Sectoral Meeting of SOM-AMAF and SOMHD of ASEAN member countries on 31 January 2013 for consideration.

I wish you a fruitful discussions and outcomes. 

Thank you.