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Ministers of Agriculture of Latin America and the Caribbean meet to strengthen regional integration
Focus is on actions to reduce hunger and poverty and create greater opportunities for development
20 April 2006, Caracas – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will hold its 29th Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean in Caracas, Venezuela, from 24 to 28 April.

Ministers of Agriculture and other high-ranking officials from 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean will attend. This is the second time this biennial event is being held in Venezuela. The 11th Regional Conference also met in Caracas in 1970.

The Plenary Session will be officially inaugurated at the Hotel Hilton on Wednesday 26 April at 9:00 a.m. by the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías, and the Director-General of FAO, Jacques Diouf. The Plenary Session will be preceded by two days of work of the Technical Committee, where issues of relevance to the region will be discussed.

The meeting will examine a broad spectrum of subjects, including policies for the economic and social development of rural areas, trends and challenges in food health and safety, strengthening of regional capacity for the prevention of avian influenza, and the current situation of agriculture, forests, fisheries and food security in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The territorial dimension of development

The struggle to gain access to international markets and achieve economic stability has featured among the main priorities in the majority of Latin American countries in the last 20 years. “Unfortunately, the quest for a competitive insertion in markets undertaken by countries of the region has been associated with an increase in the already significant inequalities prevalent,” affirmed José Graziano da Silva, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative of FAO for Latin America and the Caribbean.

A document prepared for the Conference states that “in 2004, ninety six million people, that is to say, 18.6% of Latin America’s total population, lived in extreme poverty, while the total number of the poor was estimated to be 222 million people, 42.9% of the Region’s total population”.

This situation forces the need to adopt a territorial approach to policies aimed at overcoming rural poverty. These approaches should allow a deepening of identity ties of individuals with the rural areas to which they belong.

The Technical Committee will also discuss trends and challenges in food health and safety. The impacts on agricultural exports will be evaluated in a report, highlighting opportunities and challenges for small farmers from the viewpoint of Free Trade Agreements, and aiming at their better insertion in international markets.

Prevention and control of avian influenza

Even though cases of avian influenza caused by the highly pathogenic virus known as H5N1 have not as yet been detected in the region, it is of the utmost importance that the countries be prepared and possess tools to act precisely and efficiently against this transboundary threat.

Defining strategies for prevention, control and eradication of avian influenza is extremely important to avoid the disastrous consequences this illness might have in the region. According to FAO, poultry ranks as the most consumed among meats because of its quality and low cost. It is estimated that production in the continent has grown by 17% in recent years. Thus, maintaining this activity requires support actions of regional scope to safeguard health conditions and ensure high-quality food for low-income populations.

FAO activities in the region

FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf will deliver an important address to the Ministers and Heads of Delegations at 10:30 on Wednesday 26 April.

At the Plenary Session, which will continue until 28 April, the Report on FAO Activities in the Region in the 2004-2005 biennium, focused on the achievement of the Millenium Development Goals, will be submitted. In this context, the “Latin America Without Hunger 2025” initiative will be discussed. The initiative emphasizes medium- and long-term structural policies to eradicate hunger from a Continent which today has the capacity to feed thrice its current population.

On Thursday 27 April, the Conference will concentrate its work on two round tables devoted to the discussion of two important issues for the region: a) problems and perspectives in the implementation of a regional agricultural common market, and b) institutional challenges faced in technological innovation.

The Regional Conference will close on Friday 28 April with the approval of the Final Report.

Contacts:

Germán Rojas
Media Relations Officer, FAO
german.rojas@fao.org
(+ 39) 348 870 4641

Lucas Silva
Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
lucas.silva@fao.org

Contact:

Germán Rojas
Media Relations Officer, FAO
german.rojas@fao.org
(+ 39) 348 870 4641

Lucas Silva
Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
lucas.silva@fao.org

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Ministers of Agriculture of Latin America and the Caribbean meet to strengthen regional integration
Focus is on actions to reduce hunger and poverty and create greater opportunities for development
20 April 2006 - At FAO's Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, debates will focus on actions to reduce hunger and poverty and to help create greater opportunities for development.
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