His Excellency Takao Fujimoto, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan

It is my great honour to address the World Food Summit on behalf of the Government of Japan and to deliver our view on world food issues. Let me first express my gratitude to the Government of Italy which has hosted the Conference and to all the people engaged in the preparation including the Director-General and other staff of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Food is one of the most important global issues among others, such as the environment and population, which have been taken up in a series of recent international conferences. I highly appreciate the convening of this Summit which will raise global awareness on the importance of food and agriculture for the twenty-first century, initiate concerted and determined actions to achieve world food security, and eradicate hunger and malnutrition.

I believe that the food issue is an important matter that everyone in the world, all alike, should pay serious attention to. While the limits of food production resources on the earth become more and more apparent, meeting the large increase in demand caused by the growing world population and rapidly improving standard of diets, and supplying sufficient and stable food production for all human beings are important challenges for all people. In addition, instability of food supply and demand as well as fluctuations in food prices due to natural disasters and unfavourable climatic conditions are matters of serious concern for many countries and people. Moreover, the existence of some 800 million hungry and undernourished people in the current world cannot be overlooked from a humanitarian point of view and is a challenge that must be tackled with our utmost efforts.

In this context, I would like to stress that food, which is the basis of human existence, and agriculture, which is carried out in harmony with our natural environments, should both be considered not only from an economic point of view, but also from multiple viewpoints that take into account different values in our life. In this sense I am pleased to see such recognition referred in the Rome Declaration and the Plan of Action.

In order to achieve world food security, it is important for each country to adopt appropriate policies and actions according to its respective position.

First, it is not appropriate for food importing countries, irrespective of developed or developing countries, to excessively rely on food imports, considering the possible negative effects on international markets made by large amount purchases by one importing country, the possible uncertainty of food imports in times of food shortages, and future population increase. It would be particularly important, therefore, that food importing countries, including my country, promote domestic production by effectively utilizing their productive resources.

In addition, I would like to stress that the promotion of domestic production will facilitate the full deployment of the multiple functions of agriculture, other than food production.

So far, I have referred to the importance of domestic production; but in many importing countries, it is difficult to supply all the necessary food from domestic sources because of constraints in their production resources and available technologies. Therefore, it is important to appropriately combine the three elements, that is food imports, stockpiling and domestic production, according to the specific conditions of each country, in order to secure a stable food supply.

Secondly, food exporting countries should be responsible for maintaining stable food supplies to importing countries even during periods of poor harvest. They should fully recognize that importing countries may face a crisis situation if their food supply is restricted by exporting countries' unilateral measures. In addition, particularly those having inadequate foreign currency holdings may greatly suffer from increased world market prices caused by export restrictions. Exporting countries should fully recognize this point as well.

The third but important category is developing countries actually suffering from hunger and malnutrition. For these countries, food aid is important as a temporary measure. However, what I would like to stress here is the utmost importance of improving food production capacity in those countries. It is important that such efforts are technically and financially supported by the international community.

Now, I would like to turn to the efforts of my own country to secure stable food supplies.

Japan's self-sufficiency ratio for cereals is as low as 30 percent, an exceptionally low level compared to other developed countries. Because of this background, most of our nationals are concerned over the future food situation in our country. Taking this into account, our agricultural policy stresses the maintenance and expansion, as appropriate, of domestic production, making effective use of our existing production resources.

However, since it is difficult to supply all necessary food from domestic production, due to limited production resources such as land, we are striving to best respond to the needs of our nationals by appropriately combining food imports and stockpiling in addition to domestic food production.

I believe that for a large importing country like Japan, making efforts to maintain a certain level of domestic production would also contribute to both stabilization of the international food market and mid- to long-term world food security.

Finally, I would like to refer to our international cooperation that contributes to world food security.

Currently, Japan is the leading donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in the world. In the food and agriculture field, we have been actively promoting technical and financial cooperation. In this context, we believe that in order to achieve food security, it is particularly important for each country to produce domestically at least its basic food and to pursue sustainable agriculture and rural development.

Based on the outcome of the World Food Summit, Japan will place high priority on the field of food and agriculture in our international cooperation programmes, in order to support self-help efforts by developing countries for increasing food production and their sustainable agricultural and rural development.

In particular, the target in the Rome Declaration to reduce the number of undernourished people by half by not later than 2015 is an extremely valuable political benchmark along the line of the new development strategy based on an output-oriented approach which Japan has been emphasizing. Therefore, we fully support it and will make our utmost efforts towards its realization.

In relation to the support towards the tragedy in eastern Zaire, to which many delegates including the Secretary-General of the United Nations has referred, Japan, positively responding to the appeal by the United Nations Secretary General, is making various efforts such as strengthening contacts with parties concerned and contributing more than US$ 10 million to the Appeals for Assistance to Burundian and Rwandan Refugees and Returnees by UNHCR, and is aspiring to the hope that a peaceful solution will be realized as soon as possible.

Japan sincerely hopes that the World Food Summit will lead to an international environment in which the whole world can collectively pursue the achievement of Food for All into the twenty-first century.

I hope that the success of this Summit will lead to concerted and concrete actions by all parties concerned, such as governments, international organizations, civil society including NGOs, and the international community at large towards the objective of food security for all.

I would like to conclude my statement by reaffirming our determination to positively contribute on our part to the achievement of food security.

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