Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

OPENING REMARKS

by

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

delivered at the

SAVE FOOD ASIA-PACIFIC CAMPAIGN
High-Level Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Food Losses and Food Waste in
Asia and the Pacific Region

Bangkok, Thailand
27 to 28 August 2013

 

H.E. Yukol Limlamthong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thailand,
Eminent speaker, Professor Swaminathan, Professor Worsak Kanok-Nukulcahi, Interim President, Asian Institute of Technology,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,

Good morning.

First of all, it is my pleasure to welcome you all, and to express my sincere gratitude to Dr. Yukol , Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand for his acceptance to deliver  the opening speech. I also wish to convey our special appreciation to Professor Swaminathan, the Chair of  High-Level Panel of Expert on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) and the Father of Green Revolution who accepted our invitation to deliver a key note speech today. We value the partnership with Asia Institute of  Technology (AIT) which has played an important  role in organizing this event as a co-organizer.  I   wish to acknowledge the participation of  20 countries in the region with over 130 participants including four Ministers. I wish to thank all of  you for taking time off your busy schedules to participate in this High-Level Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Food Losses and Food Waste in Asia and the Pacific Region. 

This Consultation is very special and historic, as today, we mark the launch of the Save Food Asia-Pacific Campaign. The Campaign seeks to raise awareness of the high levels of food losses and waste during whole supply chain– particularly post-harvest losses –  and the growing problem of  food waste ,especially at our dining table.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The world produces more or less sufficient food to meet the demand of its current population of 7 billion. However, 12.5 percent of the global population, or 868 million people, equivalent to one in eight people, go hungry every day. In 2012, the Asia-Pacific region was home to 536 million hungry people, or 62 percent of the world’s chronic hunger.

While the region has shown rapid economic growth in the first decade of this century, the successes achieved in economic growth have not resulted in alleviating hunger . Rather, they have resulted in the inequitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth, and widening  income disparity and inequality in many least developed countries and in middle income countries of the region.

Nevertheless, it facilitated  robust increases in per capita food consumption.  Indeed, it increased from 2370 kcal/day/person in 1970 to 2770 kcal/day/person in 2005,and expected to exceed 3000 kcal/day/person by year 2050.  Along with rapid urbanization and  changes in food consumption patterns,  people are increasingly shopping for foods in hyper and supermarkets and storing them in their  home. Considerable growth  is also taking place in the food service sector including restaurants across the region – another area where substantial quantities of  food are wasted.

Indeed, Food became easily available  without much effort for search or cooking.  Significant quantities of food procured by households are often wasted due to over-buying, poor storage, failure to consume or lack of seriousness  to  over expiration dates.  At our dining table, nearly 15-20 percent of foods cooked are left over, thrown away and wasted in Europe, North America and Industrialized Asia.  Indeed,  food became less respected in recent past  despite of its fundamental value  that influences our  life and basic human needs.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The region’s rural labor force is declining and more food must travel over longer distances to markets in order to feed urban consumers – on poor quality roads, under hot and humid conditions, in packaging of poor quality .–Considerable quantities of food  for these urban markets is lost in transit. Not only do these food losses increase the cost of food for consumers and reduce incomes for producers, they threaten food security as a whole.

An estimated 42 percent of the fruits and vegetables grown in this region, and up to 20 percent of the grains produced, never reach the tables of consumers owing to these losses. 

At the global level, a staggering 1.3 billion tonnes – enough to feed 3 billion people – is lost or wasted every year.  FAO estimates that if the food wasted or lost globally could be reduced by just one quarter, this would be sufficient to feed the 870 million people suffering from chronic hunger in the world. 

Moreover, we are facing new challenges to cope with rapidly growing world population which would reach over 9 billion by 2050. To feed these growing future population, FAO estimates that the world needs to increase food production by 60 percent  by 2050, or by 77 percent in developing countries alone where  the majority of population increase would occur. This challenge has to be met under existing constraints such as stagnation of productivity growth of major staple food such as wheat and rice, decline of arable lands, increasing scarcity of water resources, negative impact of climate changes and natural disasters, and completion on the use of land and water between food crops and bio-energy crops.  We have to attain this goal and produce and supply sufficient food to meet the needs of our future generation. Otherwise, social and political stability and world peace and stability would be compromised as we already witnessed in recent past.

There is no room to entertain food losses and food waste any more in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Environmental challenges across the region are also fuelling concern for the food security of current and future generations which  warrants a greater focus on resource efficiency in the region. Loss or waste of foods is not just a simple implication to itself. It involves loss or waste  in labor, fertilizer, seeds, transport, storage, packaging and all other resources and energy used to produce the foods.

Greenhouse gas emissions from food losses and food waste contribute to global warming.  As populations in the region grow, these impacts are likely to increase. Action must be taken to urgently curb and manage losses and waste to mitigate these negative environmental impacts.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

FAO has long recognized the importance of concerted action on food loss reduction and has been working in this area for over 40 years. FAO’s systematic involvement in the reduction of food losses dates back to the late 1960s with the Freedom from Hunger Campaign. Following the first UN World Food Conference in Rome in 1974, FAO established the Action Programme for the Prevention of Food Losses in 1978, which ran until the early 1990s. The purpose of the programme was to assist developing countries implement programmes for the reduction of food losses at national levels through direct action projects which were implemented worldwide.

FAO recognizes the critical importance of a multi-stakeholder platform in discussing food loss and food waste issues, and in mapping the way forward in terms of strategic actions to be taken at country and regional levels to reduce food loss and food waste.  This is why we are here today.  We strongly believe that only through the joint efforts of all stakeholders involved will we be able to raise awareness and make the changes required to reduce post-harvest losses and food waste in the region.  We are, therefore seeking commitment from you as key stakeholders, to develop joint initiatives and efforts at different levels to reduce post-harvest losses and food waste and to promote sustainable food consumption.

Some of the key expected outputs we are looking to from  this Consultation, are: An improved understanding of the causes of food loss and food waste in the region;  Agreement on priority actions to reduce post-harvest losses and food waste in the region, and the formation of a regional network. As a follow up to this consultation, FAO would be able to provide support  to the countries for country level actions as necessary .

Tomorrow afternoon, during the closing ceremony, the  draft joint communiqué which is in your bag will be discussed and we welcome your comments suggestions by closing time today to Ms. Rolle. Subsequently, the  Campaign will be officially launched tomorrow afternoon before closing. Before closing, I wish to invite you all to join us under the Save Food Asia-Pacific Campaign.  Together, students, teachers, researchers, policy makers, those from government and non-governmental  sectors, public and private entities, friends, man and women, let’s work as a partner of strong will and solidarity .

We need every one. We need a strong public support and participation in this extremely important undertaking which can only be achieved if  everyone contributes, if we gain a strong political will, and if we succeed in mobilizing concerted efforts and partnership .

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I look forward to a very fruitful deliberations  and outcomes.

Thank you.