Director-General of FAO ADDRESS for the World Food Day Observance
New York, 27 October 2011
His Excellency Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, Permanent Representative ofQatarand President of the UN General Assembly
Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
His Excellency Ambassador Lazarous Kapambwe, Permanent Representative ofZambia, and President of ECOSOC
DameBarbara Stocking, Chief Executive of OXFAM,Great Britain
Ms. Dee Dee Bridgewater, FAO Goodwill Ambassador
Colleagues from IFAD and WFP,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I declare this Thirty-first World Food Day observance, on the occasion of the sixty-sixth anniversary of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, now open.
I should like to thank the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary General, the President of ECOSOC, and all of the distinguished speakers, including OXFAM, Chief Executive, colleagues from WFP and IFAD, and our FAO Goodwill Ambassador. I also acknowledge the presence in this room of several Ambassadors, Permanent Representatives to the UN and high representatives from the private sector and the civil society. Your attendance is encouraging or our efforts in combating hunger and food insecurity.
As you are aware, the World Food Day theme this year, “Food prices: from crisis to stability” has been selected to focus on a trend which has an impact on universal food security.
High food prices and food security are of great concern to the world. Last year saw a continuation of the extreme swings in their level.
A few months of calm came to an abrupt end when, from last July onwards, unfavourable weather hit crops in major producing countries. By the end of the year grains prices soared to what they were at the peak of the 2008 food crisis.
This evolution increased by 80 million the number of hungry and malnourished people which reached almost one billion. That is around one seventh of the world’s population.
Volatility in food prices challenges the fundamental human right to adequate food. It also deepens food insecurity. The impact of food price volatility falls heaviest on the poorest – especially the urban and landless rural ones – who may spend as much as 75 percent of their income on food.
High food prices reinforce poverty traps as physical and human capital is eroded and spending is cut. Price volatility increases uncertainty and deters the investments which is essential to increasing food production and reducing vulnerability. For governments they aggravate the import bills and threaten exchange reserves. They thus impact on national budgets. They also slow growth and economic development.
In the past, real agricultural prices trended downwards, as technical improvements augmented yields and production, faster than population. At the same time improved income growth, in particular in emerging countries, increased demand.
Investment and supply growth have slowed while demand has continued to increase rapidly, and stocks are coming to uncomfortably low levels. There has also been increasing demand for feedstocks and biofuel production expanded significantly, as a result of subsidies, tariff protection and mandates.
The present situation has its origins in weather shocks affecting key producing and exporting countries. But it has been made worse by the closer linkages between agricultural and energy markets and also the speculative trading in the commodity futures markets. Policy measures such as export restrictions have exacerbated the situation
To move to stability and reliability, there is a need for more transparency in international food markets. The experience of the 2007-08 exposed weaknesses in information on world food supply and demand together with a lack of reliable indicators of policy coordination. It also underscored the unpreparedness and low level of resilience to international food price surges.
At the request of the G20 French presidency, FAO and OECD have worked with other International Organizations to produce an Interagency Report on Food Price Volatility. The creation of an Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) to be based at FAO was approved. AMIS will provide the basis for global food market alerts.. The meeting to launch this system has already taken place. A Rapid Response Forum (RRF) has been agreed and will provide the mechanism for the immediate actions needed to respond to the alert system.
Research and development targeted on small producers’ needs must be stepped up. As in 2002, FAO, at the 2009 World Summit on Food Security, called for increased investment in agriculture to produce more food where the poor and hungry live. More than $80 billion of additional investment is required annually in agriculture and downstream activities to ensure 70% increase in world productions by 2050, when world population will reach 9 billion persons. To finance such investments, national governments will have to contribute significantly. They also need, through good governance and sound policies, to promote an enabling environment for the private sector to invest in a responsible and fair manner. In addition, the share of official development assistance destined for agriculture has to be significantly increased back to the 19% level of 1980 since it is currently at six percent and as neglect of the sector for 20 years need to be corrected.
World leaders must respect the decisions already taken, in particular at the G8 and G20 Summits. They would thus generate the necessary political will and financial resources to ensure that food security is achieved. Only then would it be possible to avoid the succession of periodical crises affecting most severely the poorest populations and to restore political stability, world peace and security
On this World Food Day, the time has come to take the necessary actions. Farmers of the world, in developing and developed countries, need to face equitable conditions. Non distorting mechanisms in international markets will then be put in place to allow them to earn an income suitable for a dignified life.
The world has the knowledge and financial means needed to ensure food security for all. Now is the time to make it happen.
Finally, I would like to thank all of you for joining us today in the observance of World Food Day, and I urge you to support FAO’s Telefood Fund for projects that will directly benefit those most affected by the crisis in the Horn of Africa.
Thank you for your kind attention.