26 March 2003, Rome -- Opening "Global Food Security and the Role of Sustainable Fertilization", a high-level conference jointly organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) today, FAO Deputy Director-General David Harcharik said the campaign to eradicate poverty and hunger, and to increase agricultural production while making sustainable use of natural resources, is a joint effort shared by both public and private institutions.

Mr. Harcharik also noted that many developing countries need to apply more plant nutrients to meet agricultural development goals. He stated that integrated plant nutrition management provided by judicious use of both mineral and organic fertilizers is necessary for sustainable agricultural development.

In his opening remarks, IFA President Wladimir Puggina, President and CEO of Fertibras, S.A. (Brazil) also referred to the three decades of cooperation that FAO and IFA have undertaken to help developing countries' populations emerge from poverty.

Calling governments to action, Mr. Puggina cautioned, "Simply providing fertilizers is not enough to achieve a lasting solution to the food security dilemma. Appropriate policy frameworks are essential, as are market structures, infrastructure development, credit facilities and the transfer of technology and knowledge."

The depletion of nutrient stocks in the soil, which is occurring in many developing countries, is a major but often hidden form of land degradation, making agricultural production unsustainable, according to FAO.

Speakers on the first day of the conference, taking place at the Sheraton-Roma (Eur area), include Per Pinstrup-Andersen, 2001 World Food Prize Laureate, and Henk Mathot, President, Cargill Crop Nutrition. Key interventions during the rest of the programme: Louise Fresco, Assistant Director-General, FAO Agriculture Department; Christian Bonte-Friedheim, Humbolt University, formerly FAO and International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR); and William Doyle, President and CEO of PotashCorp (Canada).

The challenges

Major topics include the challenges for successfully managing fertilizers in commercial farming systems in both developed and developing countries as well as under subsistence conditions.

With an emphasis on future actions, the conference also covers emerging technologies and knowledge about crop nutrient management, links between fertilizer use and human nutrition and the contribution of various sectors including the fertilizer industry, international organizations, governments and researchers.

FAO and IFA are holding this conference in partnership as a practical follow-up to recent key political meetings, including the World Food Summit (1996), the Millennium Summit (2000), the World Food Summit: five years later (2002) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002).

Outcomes of the conference will be available by contacting the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) at fax +33 1 53 93 05 47 or e-mail ebrajovic@fertilizer.org or FAO at fax (+39) 06 570 56275 or e-mail jan.poulisse@fao.org
Kristen Sukalac
Head of Info. & Comms, IFA
(+33) 1 53930533
26-28 March: (+39) 06 5453 7592

Pierre Antonios
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53473 or (+39) 3482523807