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FAO Near East Conference plans to halve food waste in 10 years

Countries also call on FAO to develop a regional trust fund for food security

Photo: ©FAO/Giorgio Napolitano
FAO Conference for the Near East

18 May 2012, Rome - FAO's 31st Regional Conference for the Near East today called for a 50 percent reduction of food losses and food waste in the region in order to improve regional food security.

Concluding a week-long session here, the Conference called on FAO to assist its Member Countries in drawing up a plan to halve the amount food they currently lose or waste in the next ten years.

Annual losses in grains are estimated at more than 16  million tonnes across the region. Some 15 percent of vegetables and legumes and more than 30 percent of perishable foods such as fruit, vegetables, dairy products, meat and fish are also wasted annually.

Regional trust fund


In a concluding declaration, the Conference also supported the proposal to set up a regional Trust Fund for agricultural development and food security, idea that was presented by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

Conference Chair Ezzulddin Abdalla Al Dawla, Minister of Agriculture of Iraq, explained that the declaration, unanimously adopted by the participating countries, also called for the increase public and private investment to build a prosperous rural economy that can produce food sustainably and provide remunerative employment, especially to young men and rural women.

Countries also committed to engage with civil society, the private sector and other partners, including FAO, in this effort and to support and strengthen regional and South-South cooperation in the development of agriculture.

"Food security and peace are directly linked. Conflicts can result in hunger; and food insecurity can spark or fuel conflicts that can affect countries close by. The Minister of Agriculture of Yemen, for instance, has called to my attention significant migratory movements from Africa, which is putting additional pressure on food security in his country. This is an example of why fighting hunger needs to combine national, regional and global efforts. FAO is working at all levels and with different partners to advance together in these fronts,"said Graziano da Silva.

Limited potential


In the Near East, land and water constraints severely limit the potential for increased food production to feed a Near Eastern population set to grow from 380 million to 520 million in 2030. Promoting the sustainable use and better management of natural resources was one of the priorities set by the Regional Conference, in order to increase production. Other priorities include the adaptation to and mitigation of the impact of climate change on increasingly scarce natural resources such as water and preparing for, and responding to, agriculture and food emergencies.

The Conference also requested FAO to assist in developing a regional food security strategy and action plan to focus on mechanisms for dealing with food price volatility, investment, creation of strategic grain reserves and improved food security and nutrition information systems.

Additional funding


Conference Chair Ezzulddin Abdalla Al Dawla, Minister of Agriculture of Iraq, told the meeting, "The FAO regional conference today provides an ideal forum for decision makers to discuss issues and coordinate responses to many challenges, particularly transboundary threats such as desertification, water scarcity, dwindling green land cover, in addition to pests and diseases."

"Enhanced regional support and coordination are important to independent national policy making," he added.

During the Conference, separate cooperation agreements were signed between FAO and Saudi Arabia, Libya and Iran. Under a Memorandum of Understanding Saudi Arabia provided $66.7 million to finance FAO technical cooperation programmes in the country in the next five years. Libya provided $71million for FAO technical help with its plant production and animal health and output while the accord with Iran is intended to facilitate a South-South Cooperation initiative under which Iranian experts will be deployed to less developed countries to share their knowledge and experience.

The Conference was attended by over 150 delegates, including 11 ministers, from 24 Members of the Near East Regional Group, as well as representatives of civil society, private sector, UN organizations and observer countries.