Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu

Opening Remarks by Dr QU Dongyu,

FAO Director-General

International Year of Fruits and Vegetables

Official Launch Event

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

As delivered

 

 

Distinguished Guests,
Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon from Rome,

  • For some parts of the world, it is a ‘good evening’ and in some parts, it is a ‘good morning.’ For Chile, my friend from Chile, it is a ‘good morning.’
  • I am pleased to be with you today to launch the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables.
  • Today’s Event marks the beginning of a very important International Year, albeit under the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • This pandemic has challenged all of us to find new ways of moving forward in our fight against hunger and malnutrition.
  • In December 2019, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables.
  • This is a unique opportunity to raise global awareness of their essential contribution to health and nutrition.
  • I would like to congratulate the Government of Chile for coordinating negotiations at the UN General Assembly and chairing the International Steering Committee that has led the preparations for this Year.
  • In the current health crisis, we are facing around the world, promoting healthy diets to strengthen our immune systems, is especially appropriate.
  • Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial phytochemicals.
  • This International Year will bring a specific focus on increasing the availability and affordability of fresh, safe, and quality fruits and vegetables to consumers.
  • It will also seek to address the disproportionately high levels of loss and waste of fruits and vegetables.
  • This is an ethical issue, which in Pope Francis’ words, is “like stealing from the world's poor”.
  • Reducing food loss and waste also leads to a more efficient use of land and water – with positive impacts on climate change and livelihoods.
  • Improving the efficiency and sustainability of the fruit and vegetable sector will also deliver economic, social, and environmental benefits and contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Ladies and Gentlemen,
  • As we launch this International Year, we must recognize the fragility of fruit and vegetable production and consumption within the agri-food systems.
  • Perishable food items combined with a complex fresh-produce supply chain and access to markets lead to a vulnerable value chain from the producers to the consumers.
  • The pandemic revealed the importance of short and inclusive value chains as a way of improving market opportunities, particularly for family farmers.
  • This is why innovative technologies and approaches are of critical importance.
  • They can help maintaining safety and quality, increasing the shelf life of fresh produce items and preserving their high nutritional value.
  • The international community is already engaged in major global campaign efforts, including the UN Decade for Action on Nutrition and the UN Decade of Family Farming.
  • The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables is an opportunity to create synergies with these campaigns.
  • Strategic collaboration with all actors, including governments, civil society, the private sector, and research institutions, are crucial.
  • We are happy that today’s Event will include perspectives from a variety of stakeholders.
  • Under the slogan, “Fruits and Vegetables: Your Dietary Essentials”, we invite all stakeholders to engage and contribute.
  • I was a Secretary-General of the Chinese Society for Horticulture Science for about five years.
  • Forty-one years ago, I chose vegetables, fruit and tea – horticulture, as my Bachelor’s degree, an undergraduate study in the Horticulture Department at Hunan Agricultural University.
  • Therefore, you can see, I started my university life; I am proud to be in my whole life so far, 41 years, to have worked with the horticulture sectors.
  • I did not expect to be the FAO Director-General now to share my experience with you, as horticulture – vegetables and fruit especially – is a labour-intensive sector.
  • It is really to help the smallholder farmers to improve their incomes, livelihood and to offer nutritious food and healthy diets for citizens in the city and around the world.
  • That is why we need a lot of innovation.
  • That is why, ten years ago, we had a programme on solanaceae crops on genomics. We got a genomic sequencing of the tomato and potato first in the world. That was in 2009.
  • I think, we also had the first genomic sequencing of Brassica oleracea; that is a cabbage.
  • I want to use that; I am really happy to engage with this International Year of Fruit and Vegetables. If any developing country wants to improve their farmers’ income, vegetables and fruit are very good for ‘the cash.’ We call it a ‘cash crop.’
  • We encourage all governments that they should improve their infrastructure related to horticulture, especially for perishable vegetables and fruit. They need a very good facility to deal with, otherwise food loss is really high.
  • Farmers are very vulnerable to market access if the government, the private sector and the people from the academia did not help them. It is really a problem for them.
  • Therefore, vegetables and fruit are beautiful once they become food on your table. However, if you did not help them, it is just ‘garbage.’ I have so many experiences with my friends around the world.
  • In Chile, we have the Chilean cherry exported to China. We have the cherry from California to China. We have a lot of the Chinese farmers export the Chinese cabbages to the Republic of Korea and Japan, and others. Europe also. We have the Dutch farmers export the cherry tomato to China.
  • These are challenging issues, but we need innovation, we need the digital technology, selling online and we need a good cold chain. Especially cold value and supply chain. It is really essential for fruit and vegetables.
  • Now, I have the pleasure to declare the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables officially launched.
  • Thank you all and enjoy your fruits and vegetables every day. Build up your happy, healthy life for all of you.
  • Happy New Year with delicious fruits and vegetables.

Thank you.

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