Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to be here and to have the opportunity to make a few brief remarks.
Let me begin by congratulating the organizers and hosts — for making this special evening possible.
There is indeed much to celebrate in this International Year of Quinoa.
For many years Quinoa has been a fixture of Andean diets. In recent times, quinoa production has soared: from around 20,000 tonnes a year in the 1980s to nearly 100,000 tonnes today. Quinoa production in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador together account for some 90% of global production.
Retail prices have more than tripled since 2007. The most popular varieties now command over $3,500 a ton.
The crop’s health properties are rightly lauded: protein and vitamin-rich, low-fat, gluten-free. A close food family cousin to spinach and kale, quinoa is noted for its ability to flourish in many types of climates.
Quinoa merits special recognition for other reasons, too. It is a shining example of the benefits of bio-diversity; of preserving the world’s vast culinary heritage; and of the need to encourage the small family farmers who do much to keep such traditions alive.
The International Year of Quinoa also allows us to shine the spotlight on other global food challenges.
The numbers are sobering. In this age of plenty, 870 million people — 1 in 8 worldwide — still regularly suffer from hunger. Children disproportionately suffer. The social costs are no less tragic.
Yet there is also much cause for hope. There is a role to be played by Quinoa. The "International Year of Quinoa" will not only serve to stimulate development of this crop at a global level, but is also recognition that the challenges that face the world today can be tackled by drawing upon the wisdom gained by ancient peoples and by small family farmers, who currently produce the bulk of such crops.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, under the leadership of our Brazilian-born Director-General Dr.José Graziano da Silva, is doing its part, offering countries technical expertise and a forum to spread best-practices in key areas like:
- Food security and malnutrition
- Sustainable production methods
- Rural poverty
- Food systems and resilience
Let me conclude with one final observation. Partnerships, encouraged by splendid gatherings such as this, are vital.
Governments, development agencies, NGOs, and business all have much to offer. Let’s work together; let’s harness our special strengths; let’s put our best foot forward.
Thank you and salud !