FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

FAO and member countries map out regional priorities in responding to COVID-19 impact on food and agriculture

Concluding session of the Regional Consultative Technical Meeting

26 July 2020, Cairo, Egypt – “The COVID-19 crisis has hit hard the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region, which has some of the largest food importing countries in the world and several countries already grappling with conflicts and economic crisis. We need to be prepared and proactive to prevent COVID-19 to lead to major disruptions in agriculture production and trade and to a large scale food crisis in our region,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for NENA.

FAO Senior official statement came at the occasion of the last session of the Regional Consultative Technical Meeting (RCTM) convened by FAO and member countries to discuss regional priorities to shape the response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food and agriculture.

“It is imperative that we not only think about the immediate response but about the recovery, and building back better is the only option,” said Beth Bechdol, FAO Deputy Director-General during the meeting.  

“Food systems in the Near East Region are under threat. The COVID-19 pandemic endangers human health and disrupts diets that are essential to good health. If we do not take action immediately, the region could experience a serious disruption in food systems and a widespread food emergency,” stated H.E. Ahmed Al Bakri, RCTM Chair and Undersecretary for Agriculture in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in the Sultanate of Oman.

The drafted recommendations will be presented to ministers of agriculture of the region during the 35TH session of the Near East Regional Conference, scheduled to be held in September, in order to roll out action plans. Recommendations were cross-cutting and diverse across different areas of focus, including, but not limited to:

  • Increasing public-private and blended investments in agriculture value chains and accelerating agriculture transformation in the region through public and private support to innovation and agriculture digitalization.
  • Giving special attention to vulnerable countries and countries affected by multiple shocks and underscoring the importance of mobilizing resources to address their emergency and resilience needs.
  • Prioritizing smallholders during the crisis and in the recovery process, through social protections interventions and measure to support access to inputs, finance and markets.
  • Responding to the specific needs of rural women who were already under economic stress even before COVID-19.
  • Strengthening regional collaboration among countries of the region especially with regard to interregional trade, joint investments in agriculture based on countries’ comparative advantageous and addressing transboundary pests and diseases.

“I stress the need for all members to commit to the recommendations concluded during the RCTM. This includes, most importantly, the need to increase the percentage of agriculture in the public expenditures index in the countries of the region,” said H.E. Mr. Abdelwahab Khair, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sudan and Chairmain of the Near East Group.

The RCTM was organized to provide a platform for member countries to discuss the region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on agriculture and food security. The meetings will define the manner in which member states, together with FAO and concerned partner institutions, can collectively contribute towards mitigating the pandemic’s impact on the countries of the region.

Members have gathered for three previous consultative meetings during July, each focusing on one or more priority areas of FAO’s newly released COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme. The three meetings discussed: managing trade as a key element of the region’s food security strategies, protecting and enhancing agriculture and local value chains, and building resilience to multiple shocks – addressing COVID-19 in fragile contexts.

The FAO comprehensive Response and Recovery program  calls for urgent action in seven priority areas: (1) reinforcing a global humanitarian response plan, (2) improving data for decision-making, (3) ensuring economic inclusion and social protection, (4) bolstering trade and food safety standards, (5) boosting smallholder resilience, (6) preventing the next zoonotic pandemic with a One Health Approach, and (7) transforming food systems.


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