From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Tuilaepa S. Malielagaoi (Prime Minister of the Independent State of Samoa)

Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

At the outset I would like to express Samoa's appreciation to the Director-General for the opportunity to participate in this important gathering, five years after the first World Food Summit.

We are here to review the progress achieved in the implementation of the Plan of Action, as well as to consider strategies to overcome the complacent international response to the global prevalence, hunger and inadequate nutrition. While the Twentieth Century witnessed a remarkable revolution which led to global food production rising faster than the rate of population growth, we are told that one in every eight people in the world remains chronically-hungry. Since making the commitment in 1996 to halve the number of hungry people by the year 2015, the reality of meeting our timebound targets, while clearly daunting, remains still within our reach.

Mr Chairman. I am happy to say that Samoa has focussed its concerted efforts over the past five years on food security after having endured the devastation of consecutive cyclones and the ravages of pest and disease infestation of important food crops. Our plight in the 1990s led to more purposeful action to ensure that food security was not undermined. We were able to achieve diversification and increase production of the staple food base. Successful research and development activities, in collaboration with our development partners including FAO, have seen the steady recovery of the Taro industry. Similarly, an FAO-sponsored coconut hybrid project saw the introduction of high-yield and early maturing coconuts seedling to farmers, which ensure the achievement of a dual target strategy for both income generation and food security.

The diversification of the cattle industry from initial concentration on meat production to dairy has ensured that there are adequate dietary protein sources, particularly for the rural communities.

Mr Chairman. Fisheries play an extremely important role in the economy of my country as well as contributing significantly to the health and nutrition of our people. It is the major revenue earner for Samoa, with reported tuna exports having increased substantially from over 800 metric tonnes in 1994 to over 5,000 metric tonnes in 2001. Parallel to the significant developments in the fisheries sector is a comprehensive fishery conservation and management programme to facilitate the achievement of sustainable management of Samoa's marine fisheries and habitats.

Mr Chairman. Samoa has undergone and continues to pursue an extensive reform programme in order to revitalize economic growth. In collaboration with its development partners, it has invested significantly in institution strengthening and capacity-building. The strategy for the development of Samoa reflects the vital role of the agricultural sector in the rural and national economies, with up to eighty percent of households reliant on a mixture of subsistence and cash income, as well as its links with other priority sectors such as the private sector and sustainable tourism development. The strategy also supports the revitalization of the additional food cropping as well as the development and diversification of cash crops, utilizing a more participatory approach with all farming community groups.

In this context, Mr. Chairman, I must make mention of our deep concern at the ban imposed by some developed and industrialized nations on our kava products. This ban, in our view, is inconsistent with the principles and spirit of the World Trade Organization's process and procedures. Worst still for us is that this ban translates most negatively into frustrating the efforts of our small vulnerable economies in developing effective agricultural diversification, and directly threatens the livelihood of many rural communities in our Pacific Island States.

I therefore reiterate our call for the developed and industrialized nations to show greater understanding and support for the efforts of our small countries to reach our agricultural production goals. I would also again request the assistance of FAO and the United Nations System in taking urgent steps to independently evaluate the damaging claims, which we steadfastly believe are unfounded, on which the ban on kava products is based.

Mr. Chairman, the Government of Samoa recognizes the importance of ensuring that sufficient resources are being invested in agricultural and rural development. It has undertaken to establish avenues of credit to encourage more investments in rural communities, particularly those administered by women and youth groups. Other sources of rural financing include the FAO TeleFood facility, the European Union micro project scheme, small grant schemes under bilateral development assistance and the Asian Development Bank's small business fund. The Asian Development Bank continues to service the agricultural sector, with more than sixty percent of its finances committed to agricultural sector lending.

Mr. Chairman, Samoa places high priority on the development of the human resource base through improving education and health standards and services, training and skills formation matched to future social and economic needs, as well as the strengthening of its social structure. This will ensure that communities in general, and vulnerable groups in particular, enhance capacities to improve their livelihoods and prevent the onset of the hunger-trap. An education policy for compulsory education at the primary level is in place. School curricula include subjects such as agriculture studies, which are a safety net for school dropouts providing them with the tools to harness opportunities in the rural communities. There is also a partnership arrangement between the Government, NGOs and civil society to improve service delivery through information sharing, networking and technology transfer.

In spite of all these developments, Mr Chairman, Samoa, due to its vulnerability, is prone to external influences that often have an impact on its food security. The effects of climate change are already felt. Seasonal crops continue to deviate from their normal months of season. Unpredictable weather has caused detrimental effects on harvest quality and quantity. Continuing pressure on land availability for agricultural purposes is on the rise, and there is a threat of watershed degradation through extensive clearance of high altitude areas for farming and rapid deforestation. Farmers, in efforts to reduce costs and increase production, are forced to adopt new technologies and the widespread use of chemicals. The situation is being carefully monitored against the impacts on the natural environment such as pollution of freshwater supplies, as well as the benefits of alternative methods of production.

Samoa, like many developing countries, is faced with the challenges of globalization as the global trading environment becomes increasingly integrated. The erosion of preferential market access to EU and other markets in the Pacific Rim countries particularly for agriculture-based industries offers niche market opportunities for Pacific Island developing countries like my country. Tapping into niche markets presupposes competitiveness, which not only implies producing cheap products, but also including efficiency and productivity in all operations.

Mr. Chairman, we have instituted macro-reforms, central for the enhancement of export competitiveness as well as for the effective management of exchange rates. On the other hand, the lowering of trade barriers has resulted in an influx of inferior food imports, which is having an impact on the health of lower-income families. Undernourishment, particularly among children of less than five years of age, as well as obesity, is widely addressed under national nutrition programmes.

Samoa is in the process of acceding to the World Trade Organization. We are cognizant of the many onerous obligations required of us, amongst which is keeping abreast of international developments in standard and certification procedures. We have been able to access assistance in order to meet these obligations, such as the opportunity to modernize our sanitary and phytosanitary measures and review legislation and policies.

We would call on FAO to continue to make available to its Member Nations the analysis and information needed to reinforce the technical skills of negotiators in agricultural trade, if we are to make optimal use of the established framework for equitable terms of international trade of agricultural products as adopted at Doha.

The call for an International Alliance Against Hunger is strongly supported by my country. Samoa is prepared to add to the collective political will to ensure that the cycle of hunger and misery is broken once and for all.

Thank you.

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