183. The Chair acknowledged the presence of the Director-General and invited him to address the meeting and to brief Ministers on the proposal to expand the current regional programme for food security.
184. The Director-General took the opportunity to express his gratitude and appreciation to the Government of the Cook Islands for hosting the meeting, for the fine arrangements and organization of the official opening ceremony and the impressive cultural performance. He also thanked the Chair for the invitation and the opportunity to address the meeting. The Director-General then briefed the meeting on the work of FAO in relation to enhancing food security and reducing poverty throughout the world. He stated that following the World Food Summit (WFS), FAO had assisted countries in preparing national strategies for sustainable agriculture and food security. These national strategies were currently being reviewed with the objective of updating them to be in line with the objectives of the WFS-five years later and the Millennium Development Goals, which would provide FAO with a clear vision on future interventions.
185. In reference to the RPFS, the Director-General stated that the current programme was considered to be a pilot phase, for which FAO was able to secure US$4.5 million from the Government of Italy, and US$2.8 million from its own resources. He considered that the programme was progressing satisfactorily despite difficulties experienced with the implementation of certain components/activities including the recruitment of SSC experts, which were mainly outside the control of FAO. Built on the experience of the current programme and to ensure sustainable food security, FAO was seeking to expand the current RPFS in order to address both physical and structural problems and constraints on the supply side as well as those hampering trade. He stated that one of the biggest constraints to increasing production throughout the developing countries was the lack of appropriate physical infrastructure for both production and trade. He then highlighted water harvesting and irrigation, transport and storage facilities as examples of types of support infrastructures that were most important to enhancing production but were still poorly developed in most developing countries.
186. In regards to water harvesting and irrigation, the Director-General outlined its importance in terms of its role in increasing levels of production and the inability of farmers to achieve optimum production levels due to their non-availability and accessibility. In regards to transport, the Director-General pointed out the importance of rural roads for access to farmers by extension officers and advisers, and also to allow farmers' produce to reach the markets. In addition to roads, the island countries also needed ports, jetties and regular ferry services and these needed to be upgraded, regularly maintained and in good condition before the private sector would be in a position to further invest in agriculture.
187. In terms of the importance of storage facilities, he stated that research results had shown that 60 - 70 per cent of produce losses in the fresh produce sector occurred at the post-harvest stage. He stressed that besides improvement to such infrastructure, quality maintenance was also very important, which required good technical knowledge regarding cold storage and appropriate treatment against pests and diseases prior to and during transport. He pointed out, as an example, that in the livestock sub-sector infrastructure such as slaughter houses and perhaps abattoirs were required, as well as port infrastructures for fisheries. He added that in both cases sophisticated cold chains were required to get the products to the consumers in good condition. In relation to treatment and handling, the Director-General stated that it had to be in accordance with international hygiene standards and as such any capacity building activity would have to be in line with the market requirements as well as Codex standards.
188. In view of its importance to enhancing productivity and facilitating trade, the Director-General advised that the next phase of the RPFS was going to focus on improvement to infrastructure as well as facilitating the access of quality products to markets. He emphasized that this would require the collaboration of development partners and their readiness to support. Besides donor support, FAO would require endorsement of the up-scaling proposal by governments at the highest level and their commitment to allocate appropriate funding to improve rural infrastructure. He advised that the FAO Investment Centre would be available and certainly had the capacity to formulate investment projects for the up-scaling.
189. The Director-General indicated that a two-year time frame for the preparation of the detailed project proposal for the up-scaling of the RPFS was seen as realistic. He also briefed the meeting on the plan of action that FAO would undertake to ensure widest possible support for the up-scaling phase of the RPFS, which included seeking the endorsement and support of the Presidents of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as well as the Commissioner of the EC. As well, the Heads of the ACP member countries would also need to be approached for further endorsement and support of this initiative. He advised the meeting of other international events which would provide opportunities to drive for further support of the planned up-scaling of the RPFS before the end of the year. This included the round table meeting of small island development states proposed to be held in Rome on 18 November 2005, which will be held immediately prior to the FAO Conference on 19 November.
190. He also advised that there would be a meeting of Heads of Government of Commonwealth States in Malta in late November and arrangements were being made to invite Heads of Government to stop over in Rome on their way to Malta, to attend the SIDS meeting and follow-up on specific issues raised at the SIDS meeting in Mauritius. This would provide an opportunity to table the detailed proposal on the up-scaling of the RPFS during the SIDS meeting for endorsement by Heads of Government.
191. In concluding his remarks, the Director-General stated his endorsement of the concept paper prepared by SAPA outlining the proposal for the up-scaling. He advised that the up-scaling was budgeted at US$72 million to be implemented over a period of five years. He then thanked the member countries, especially New Zealand, for the positive attitude towards the RPFS. He also thanked the Italian Government for its financial contribution and indicated his hope that other countries would join in the future in supporting the initiative. He added that FAO would actively approach the Ambassadors to the UN/FAO based in Rome for more support and assistance as well as the Ministers of Agriculture when in Rome for the FAO Conference in November.
192. The Sub-Regional Representative then made a brief presentation outlining the draft concept proposal for the expansion of the current RPFS. He referred the meeting to document SWPM/CKI/5.0 and stated that the purposes of the concept paper were to (i) provide a framework that will guide the development of the proposals for the expansion of the current RPFS; (ii) provide the justification and preliminary budgets relating to the expansion proposal at the country level; and (iii) present preliminary proposals for regional level activities. He explained that as alluded to by the Director-General, the expansion programme would focus on the following four main objectives:
To increase the value and quality of food products produced, traded and consumed through strengthening the support services and policy environments to promote efficient, safe and access to adequate food systems;
To increase farmers productivity through appropriate irrigation technologies and improve farm management techniques;
To increase competitiveness of local production for both domestic and export markets with appropriate infrastructure facilities; and
To improve access to food through food safety nets under emergency conditions for vulnerable groups.
193. The Sub-Regional Representative pointed out that the expansion programme would be broadly organized into sets of activities similar to the current programme whereby some activities would be targeted at making appropriate interventions at the country level (vertical interventions) while some would focus on regional level interventions (horizontal interventions). In regards to the vertical interventions, the Sub-Regional Representative stated that these would involve two major components with a total budget of US$54 million. One component would focus on up-scaling the current food production and income generating activities at the country level with a total budgeted estimate of $14 million, and the other component would focus on the rehabilitation and construction of rural infrastructure, with a budgeted estimate of $40 million. The horizontal interventions would broadly address supply-side limitations, with a total budget estimate of US$18 million. This would include interventions relating to food quality control, market access, marketing and trade, and disaster preparedness, management and mitigation.
194. In terms of financing the expansion proposal, the Sub-Regional Representative stated that finance for the up-scaling of current food production and income generating activities at the country level, as well as for the horizontal interventions would be sought from non- reimbursable resources such as national budgets, FAO Trust Funds, bilateral donors and other sources. The financing of the rehabilitation and the construction of rural infrastructure would be through government concessional loans from international finance institutions such as the ADB, the World Bank and IFAD, and from private sector investment.
195. The Sub-Regional Representative emphasized that the concept paper was only an outline of the framework to be followed for the development of the full proposal for the expansion. He stated that subject to the endorsement of the concept proposal, FAO hoped to field a programming mission to develop the full proposal in time for the SIDS roundtable meeting to be held in Rome, as alluded to by the Director-General. He added that in addition to on-going lobbying by FAO for donor support, a meeting with donors would be organized with the view to gauging and coordinating their commitment and support to the expansion phase.
196. The Representative from the Cook Islands expressed strong support for the proposed expansion of the current RPFS and the approach outlined in the concept paper. He also expressed appreciation to the Director-General and FAO for having taken the initiative to develop the concept proposal for the proposed expansion.
197. The Minister from the Marshall Islands also expressed his governments support to the proposed expansion programme and the framework to be adopted for the expansion as outlined in the concept paper. He noted the two-year timeframe indicated by the Director-General that would be required for the preparation of the full proposal for the expansion programme, and pointed out the timeframe was acceptable as it would coincide with the next meeting of the South West Pacific Ministers for Agriculture and thus provide an opportunity to review the full proposal before implementation. He then expressed the hope that the Director-General would be able to once again attend the next meeting, which the Government of the Marshall Islands was willing to host, subject to the endorsement of the other countries.
198. The Minister from the Solomon Islands stated that his government fully supported the expansion proposal. He also noted the advice by the Director-General relating to the SIDS roundtable meeting to be held immediately prior to the FAO Conference in November and advised that his Government would make every effort to attend the meeting. He also advised that his government was also willing to host the next meeting of Ministers.
199. The Representative from Tonga welcomed the proposal to expand the current RPFS and expressed the hope that the experience gained from the current phase in terms of the successes as well as the constraints would be taken into account in designing the activities and implementation arrangements for the expansion phase. He encouraged the meeting to support the proposed expansion programme and to attend the SIDS meeting in November.
200. The Ministers from Niue and Vanuatu and the Representative from Fiji also expressed their support for the proposal to expand the current RPFS and the approach outlined in the concept paper. The Minister from Niue added that one of the priority needs for Niue was in the area of statistics for policy and planning purposes. He indicated that it could be a priority activity to be considered under the expansion phase, for Niue.
201. After further discussion, the meeting formally endorsed the concept paper on the proposal to expand the current RPFS in the Pacific and expressed appreciation for the information provided by the Director-General on the approach to be adopted in the design of the expanded proposal. The meeting also endorsed the proposed Roundtable Meeting on Food Security and Sustainable Development in SIDS during the FAO Conference in November and made a commitment to attend the Roundtable. Noting the rationale and justification for the expanded programme, the meeting:
Endorsed the concept proposal as a framework for the development of the full proposal for the expansion of the current RPFS in the Pacific; and
Agreed that FAO should organize a programming mission to develop the detailed proposal for the expansion at the earliest possible considering the time it would take and the process involved before implementation would commence.