In his opening statement to an international conference here on the elaboration of Uzbekistan’s food programme, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva highlighted the event’s importance not only for the country but as part of the global agenda to address food supply challenges.
The two-day conference, under the chairmanship of President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, gathered high-level guests from more than 40 countries and 20 international organizations including EU and international financial institutions.
Key topics included increased fruit and vegetable supply, research, and accelerated application of international experience in breeding and seed production to the conditions of specific regions of Uzbekistan, as well as adaptation and validation of established varieties.
“In Soviet times, agriculture in Uzbekistan was targeted exclusively on cotton production so the soil was getting poorer decade by decade, poisoned with chemicals and crop rotation did not exist,” said Karimov in his welcoming speech. “So the first and foremost task after achieving independence was diversification of agricultural crops, revitalization of soil and modernization of the agricultural sector – providing jobs for more than 50 percent of population.”
“We have done a lot in these areas, but still much more lies ahead so we need the high-level expertise of FAO and other international organizations,” the President added.
Increasing investment for further development of transportation systems, logistics, storage and distribution of products – to help reduce food losses and waste – was also a focus of discussions at the conference.
Highlighting the efforts of Uzbekistan to increase its presence in regional and global markets, Graziano da Silva said that integration is important in a globalized world. “The main reason for significant improvement of the agriculture sector of Uzbekistan is the increased production and productivity since 2000, and FAO is proud to have been part of these efforts,” he added.
Demonstrating impressive growth in the agricultural sector, Uzbekistan can play an important role not only in significant diversification of diets in the country but also in expanding food supply to world markets, Graziano da Silva said. He underscored the importance of support to family farmers and small-scale production.
“Family farmers have been considered a part of the problem of hunger,” he said, “but in fact they are a central part of the solution to food security.”
Since 2001, FAO cooperation with Uzbekistan has been growing, with technical assistance to further develop the agricultural sector, sustainable management of natural resources and increased resilience of rural populations to climate change.
The Organization’s presence in Uzbekistan will be reinforced with the opening of an FAO country office in Tashkent. The host country agreement between FAO and Government of Uzbekistan was signed yesterday, and the office officially inaugurated by Uzbekistan Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. Minister for Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade Elyor M. Ganiev, FAO Sub-Regional Representative Mustapha Sinaceur and UN Resident Coordinator in Uzbekistan Stefan Priesner attended the ceremony. FAO’s office is located within the Uzbek Agrarian University in Tashkent.
In the words of President Karimov: “We highly appreciate the support, practical efforts, close interaction, new technologies and all forms of assistance in the agricultural sector provided to Uzbekistan by international organizations and foundations including FAO, which country office we opened yesterday in Tashkent to boost our cooperation.”
6 June 2014, Tashkent, Uzbekistan