His Excellency Sali Berisha, President of the Republic of Albania

It is a real pleasure and great honour for me to hail the sessions of this World Food Summit and on this occasion to congratulate and express my thanks to the Director-General, Mr. Diouf for his valuable contribution in organizing this Summit, which for the documents that will be approved, is of historic importance for food security and will open a new page in the activities of FAO.

I would also like to extend my thanks to the host country, Italy, and to the Italian Government, for their hospitality and the facilities and excellent conditions, provided for the successful development of the World Food Summit sessions.

The issue of food and the right to nutrition is linked more than anything else with life and the right of living. The protein minimum, in centuries and millenniums, more than all other factors, has determined the survival of the individual or nations on the whole. At the lack of this minimum lies the major cause of starvation, disease, the premature ageing and death of individuals. Unfortunately, even today, with the epoch of 'chips' and wonderful achievements of the human mind, the problems related to starvation and food insecurity continue to remain major problems of our time, the principal cause of death and disease on our planet. The drama of Zaire today presents a recent and tragic explosion of the deep food crisis which has accompanied us since the days of yore and still accompanies mankind.

Albania, which long ago was a wheat exporter, over the second half of this century has experienced the severe consequences of partial starvation and protein deficiencies. The 50 years of hyper-collectivized dictatorship pushed the country at the beginning of 1990 to the edge of a real starvation catastrophe. It suffices to recall here that in 1991, only 20 percent of arable land was sowed and famine threatened the country, but Italy, the European Union and its member countries, the United States and other friendly countries, showed to Albanians the greatest solidarity ever shown in their whole history. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent in food were granted to Albania. The Italian Army Pelican operation organized the distribution and on this occasion I would like, from this platform, to extend my profoundest gratitude to the farmers, tax payers and governments of the friendly countries for their generous and abundant aid provided to my country.

The issue of nutrition is first of all linked to peace, stability and free initiative. Now, I have the pleasure to confirm that Albania over the last four years, has proved herself to be one of the most stable countries in our peninsula which has made a real contribution and still contributes, to peace and stability in this conflictual region. I also avail myself of this opportunity to affirm here that in four years of deep political, legislative, economic and institutional reforms, Albania replaced all old laws and institutions with new ones of a European standard. In the former totally hyper-collectivized country, nowadays 80 percent of GDP is coming from the private sector. Incomes per capita increased from US $204 in 1992 up to US $1 000 this year. The economic growth is of two digits, among the highest on the continent. The inflation rate comes from 400 percent only four years ago, to one digit last year, and exports increased several times.

In all these changes, those that occurred in agriculture have occupied a central place; a central role. Within 1992, we succeeded in privatizing the land by creating all over the country about 400 000 small farms whose owners are provided with property titles.

Albanian farmers, although in a difficult condition, succeeded in becoming "success farmers". Over the last four years agricultural production has attained each passing year a two digit growth. It is true that food imports have not an unimportant place but their exports too, have a respectable one.

The country has stopped needing food deliveries. Albanian farmers sell at market prices. Two months ago the Government fully liberalized the price of wheat. The consumption of meat, milk, cheese has increased several times. The phenomena of malnutrition among children, adults, and related diseases, has disappeared. Again, Albanian farmers are facing serious difficulties mainly related to the lack of appropriate infrastructure, underdeveloped marketing and other issues regarding races, seeds, care for plants, and animal health care, and food processing.

The Albanian Government is and will remain committed towards assisting to find solutions for all these problems. The international cooperation with the developed countries, United Nations institutions, the cooperation with FAO, the Bretton Woods institutions, and UNDP occupy an important place in this respect. We have carried out a large number of projects, among which the most important are those for the improvement of infrastructure in the rural areas, roads, water supply, restructuring of schools and health care centres, rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure, land draining, improvement of technologies for food processing, protection of plants and animals, marketing and processing of agricultural production.

Albania, is working on the adoption of a national programme on food security and is cooperating closely with FAO, as well as, with international organizations and donor countries.

Finally, I would like to assure you that Albania fully backs the Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action which will be ratified at the conclusion of this Summit and she will adapt her national food policy to this plan in order to achieve food security for the present and for coming generations.

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