HAVANA, 22nd April 2002 -- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will hold its 27th Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean in the city of Havana, Cuba, from 22nd to 26th April 2002. The Plenary Session - which will be preceded by two days of work by the Conference's Technical Committee - is to be officially inaugurated in the Palacio de las Convenciones (Convention Hall) at 09.00 on Wednesday 24th April.

The FAO Regional Conference meets every two years and is attended by Ministers of Agriculture and other high-ranking officials from 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is the second time it is being held in Cuba. On the preceding occasion, in 1980, the Conference also took place in the city of Havana.

The meeting will analyse various important questions concerning agriculture and food in the region. To this end, its activities will be divided into two parts: first the Technical Committee and then the Plenary Session of Ministers. The Technical Committee will meet over 22nd-23rd April and will debate the following principal subjects: (a) the balance between food safety and the sustainable management of natural resources in Latin America and the Caribbean; (b) the importance of production alliances for food safety and rural development; (c) the effect of subsidies and commercial restrictions on agricultural and fisheries production, and access to markets. During the Technical Committee meeting there will be a demonstration of the FAO's general information and statistical data system, WAICENT (the World Agricultural Information Centre).

The Plenary Session will be inaugurated at 09.00 on Wednesday 24th April in the presence of high-ranking Cuban government authorities and of FAO Director-General, Dr. Jacques Diouf. At 12.00 on the same day, Dr Diouf will deliver an important address to the Ministers and heads of delegation.

The afternoon of Wednesday 24th April will be dedicated to analysing a report on FAO activities in the Region over the two years 2000-2001, and to considering the trends and challenges that agriculture in the Region is facing. The report will be presented by Sr. Gustavo Gordillo de Anda, Sub-Director-General and Regional Representative of the FAO for Latin America and the Caribbean. There will also be some discussion, from a regional perspective, concerning preparations for the "World Food Summit: five years later" which will be held in Rome from 10 to 13 June this year. Finally, reports will be presented by FAO Commissions for fisheries, livestock and forestry in Latin America and the Caribbean.

On Thursday 25th April, the Conference will hold a general debate on the trends and challenges the region is facing in the areas of agriculture, forestry, fishing and food safety. Space will also be allowed for consultative and analytical meetings between delegations.

The Regional Conference will conclude on Friday 26th April with the approval of the final conference report.

The Second Regional Consultation of Non-Governmental and Civil Society Organisations (NGO/CSO) was also held in Havana in the days leading up to the FAO Regional Conference. The aim of the Consultation was to contribute to the debates of the Regional Conference with the views of NGOs/CSOs concerning the subjects of (a) production alliances, commerce, access to food and to productive resources, and (b) the "World Food Summit: five years later".