Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Pacific nations as food insecure as mountain areas, say delegates to FAO meet

16 May 2002 -- Kathmandu – Pacific island nations face food security challenges as serious as those confronting mountain communities, representatives of these countries told a meeting of Asia-Pacific agricultural ministers that opened today in the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal.

Delegates from Australia and Tonga attending the 13 to 17 May 26th Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) highlighted the special problems faced by Pacific island countries, pointing out that these nations need special assistance to become part of the global agriculture market.

Six Pacific countries - Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga - are attending the meeting.

“As with remote mountain communities, many of these countries are vulnerable to forces outside their control due to their economic exposure, remoteness and susceptibility to natural disasters, and face particular constraints such as integration into the increasingly liberalized international trading regime,” Crispin Conroy, Ambassador, Australian Embassy in Nepal told the plenary session of the conference that opened on 16 May.

Addressing delegates from 27 Asia-Pacific nations, the Prime Minister of Tonga, HRH Prince Ulukalala Lavaka Ata urged the need for “better insights and understanding...(of) the very real problems faced by the island nations...that threaten the very existence of a number of our small islands.”

Pacific island countries have to increase their preparedness for the frequent natural disasters, which are a serious threat to food security, he said. “Many of our island states live on a diet of root crops that in their natural form are not suitable for long term storage,” he pointed out. The prime minister requested FAO assistance in preparing emergency food reserves, which would be the “front line defence against such disasters”.

The Australian delegate spoke of the assistance provided by his county to South West Pacific countries to promote agricultural development as well as to address food insecurity needs. This includes improving physical and economic access to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe food and ensuring that agricultural trade promotes food security for all. In this context, the Australian delegate praised FAO assistance to Pacific island countries to enable them to obtain the best deal from the liberalization of agricultural trade.

Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga and the United States of America are attending the FAO conference in Kathmandu. The delegates include 13 ministers and vice-ministers, besides the Prime Minister of Tonga. Observers from the Holy See, Netherlands, representatives of UN specialized agencies and several intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations are also present.

The Kathmandu meeting is one of a series of FAO regional conferences in preparation for a gathering of world leaders at the World Food Summit: five years later (WFS: fyl) to be held at FAO headquarters in Rome in June 2002. WFS: fyl has been convened to mobilize political will and resources to accelerate global hunger reduction in keeping with the 1996 World Food Summit pledge by 185 nations to halve the level of hunger by the year 2015. […]

RAP 02/19

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