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

73rd Extraordinary Session of the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP)

Opening Remarks by

Dr. QU Dongyu, Director-General, FAO

Virtual Meeting, 22 January 2021, 09:30 – 10:00

As delivered


Good Morning from Rome, and Good Afternoon in Jakarta

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues,

Happy New Year, Xīnnián kuàilè!

1. It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this extraordinary session of the Committee on Commodity Problems.

2. The name was created a long time ago, during the 1950s. It is one of the earliest Committees. Our ancestors already knew there were a lot of issues surrounding commodities.

3. At that time we did not have trade, WTO and a functional International Trade Organization. Indeed, the Committee on Commodity Problems was the earliest Committee within the UN System to deal with all the issues related to commodities.

4. Today’s agenda will focus on the updated Vision and Strategy for FAO’s Work in Nutrition.

5. It is critical that we as the Secretariat, working with you, get this strategy right!   

6. I have been calling on all of us to work closely together towards “a path that leads us to a better tomorrow, through better production, better nutrition and better environment for a better life.”

7. Specifically, FAO’s aspiration for Better Nutrition is to end hunger, achieve food security, and improve nutrition by enhancing access to affordable, safe, nutritious, diverse food and healthy diets for all.

8. But in order to fulfil this aspiration, FAO must leverage all of its expertise and tools, towards that goal.

9. Therefore, the Strategy for FAO’s Work in Nutrition should fully reflect the Organization’s entire potential and contribution to raising levels of nutrition worldwide – as a core FAO mandate set out in the preamble of the FAO Constitution.

10. Today Nutrition challenges are even greater than in the past – high levels of undernourishment and undernutrition persist globally, but there is also a growing epidemic of overweight and obesity.

11. And the COVID-19 pandemic is a sharp reminder of many harsh realities.

12. It has reminded us of the close relationship between poor nutrition and disease.

13. In situ immune system is more crucial. If you have proper nutrition and healthy diets that also helps keeping a strong immune system in your body.

14. The undernourished are more likely to experience severe symptoms of infectious diseases. 

15. Those suffering from overweight, obesity and non-communicable diseases are also at risk of developing acute symptoms and have been hit very hard by COVID-19. Hence, older people with pre-existing severe diseases are the most vulnerable.

16. The pandemic has also reminded us of the difficulties many people face in accessing a healthy diet.

17. We have seen how rapidly individuals and families around the world have seen food supplies dwindle, prices fluctuate, and their purchasing power decline.  

18. The velocity with which food insecurity compromised diet quality and high risks of malnutrition spread globally should shock us all!

19. But these challenges are not new, and this wake-up call is an opportunity for catalysing collective action!

20. There are many ways to ensure safe and healthy diets for all from sustainable, inclusive and resilient food systems!

21. Therefore, FAO has a unique role to play in mobilizing coherent policy and action for Better Nutrition. 

22. As the UN specialized agency for food and agriculture working across all elements of agri-food systems, FAO has a leadership role in accelerating policies and actions to enable healthy diets for all.

23. It is this role in enabling healthy diets that positions FAO’s leadership in nutrition. That is why the UN Secretary General asked us to host the UN Secretary for Nutrition.

24. This is aligned with the recommendations of the 2019 Evaluation of FAO’s Work in Nutrition, which stated that FAO’s Vision and Strategy should define and advocate for improvements to address all forms of malnutrition through food-based approaches, food systems and healthy diets.  

25. Addressing malnutrition in all its forms, today and into the future, will require a concerted effort on the part of all stakeholders working in partnership.

26. We can achieve Better Nutrition for everyone, but to do this, we need your help. 

27. We know that trade influences food supply chains and food environments, and thus food availability and prices.

28. It can increase the variety of foods available on the market year round. 

29. It can also support livelihoods and generate income for millions of people, which affects what food they can access and afford.

30. However, all of these challenges bring changes, and changes bring challenges as well.

31. How can we ensure increased dietary diversity for healthy diets – a great thing – while limiting the risk of increased consumption of highly processed foods, which should be limited in a healthy diet or not? 

32. How can markets and trade be more conducive for better food security and nutrition?

33. How do we achieve affordable, safe and healthy diets to unleash the enormous development potential that improved nutrition provides?

34. As the Committee on Commodity Problems, you are the Members with the expertise and mandate on markets and trade in the agri-food systems. You can help in answering these questions and find a package of solutions. We need a package of solutions, not a single solution. You cannot finish all the complicated problems with a single solution. Yesterday, I talked at the Winter Conference in Austria.

35. There are several lessons that we learnt during the pandemic. First, we have to keep international trade functional, open, quick and as efficient as possible. Second, we encourage local production and local supply. Third, we also need social protection and security nets for the vulnerable. Last but not the least, all the Members should pay more attention to agri-food systems.

36. When you feed well, you are almost ignoring the importance of food and agriculture. When you start suffering from starvation, it is a little bit late to plant crops because it takes months and weeks to harvest.

37. In agri-food systems we should have strategic thinking. It is a commodity driven industry, but it is also a more public goods. I told many international big figures that agri-food system is a real global public goods. Everyone should have enough food. That is the basic human rights.

38. The Vision and Strategy for FAO’s Work in Nutrition will frame how FAO can accomplish its mission in nutrition ‘to tackle malnutrition in all its forms by accelerating impactful policies and actions across food systems to enable healthy diets for all’.  In doing so, we have to look at whole value chain, whole chain of production and supply chain as a whole, not individually. From the agricultural environment, to the production, processing, supply chain, and then consumption, it should be addressed holistically, not only from the agricultural sector, but also from the socio-economic environment point of view.

39. In order to realize the vision of “a world where all people are eating healthy diets from sustainable, inclusive and resilient food systems”.

40. We look forward to your input today to ensure that all skills, experiences and expertise of FAO are leveraged in this important endeavour.

41. Of course, it is not one meeting or one year’s work. Agri-food systems is a life-long green industry. It has been going on from one generation to another.

42. Thank you.