WASHINGTON, 11 November 2002 -- United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General, Dr. Jacques Diouf, declared this morning that increased agricultural production is not sufficient to combat hunger in developing countries. Creating gainful employment opportunities and better access to markets for agricultural products are also needed, he said.

Diouf addressed cabinet ministers, heads of regional organizations and experts gathered here for the two-day joint FAO - Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Meeting on Regional Initiatives for Food Security and Rural Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"World leaders committed themselves at the 1996 World Food Summit, to eradicate hunger in all countries, with the immediate goal of reducing by half the number of the hungry in the world by 2015", Diouf said. "We are still a long way from achieving this goal with more than 840 million people today suffering from hunger", he said.
"In Latin America and the Caribbean there are 211 million poor people - an increase of 11 million since 1990 - with 89 million considered very poor, 77 million of them live in rural areas, representing 64 per cent of total rural populations, of which 54 million are extremely poor," Diouf said.

More than half of the region's farmers are poor, half of them cannot even meet their basic food needs at present levels of income, said the head of FAO.

Clearly, achieving food security is a fundamental priority. Raising the standard of living in Latin America and the Caribbean requires improving agricultural productivity, guaranteeing equitable access by all to food and resolving problems affecting accessibility to markets, according to Diouf.

The FAO Director-General indicated that the central objective of the Meeting is to consider sub-regional initiatives for food security and rural development in Latin America and the Caribbean and to secure technical and financial assistance for these initiatives.

"Agricultural trade and a system of multilateral exchange, regulated by agreements, are essential instruments to promote agricultural and rural development, food security and the fight against hunger and poverty", Diouf affirmed.