His Excellency Alexey Gordeev (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture of the Russian Federation) (Original language Russian)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is for me a great honour to be able to speak here on behalf of the Government of the Russian Federation to address the World Food Summit: five years later.
First of all, please allow me to express the gratitude to the Government of Italy, the host country of the forum and also thank all of those who organized this Summit.
In the time period that elapsed after the World Food Summit in 1996, a lot of work was carried out in order to implement the Plan of Action we adopted then. Major efforts were deployed in many countries in order to reduce the number of undernourished throughout the world, and also in order to improve food security.
The FAO Committee on Food Security helped, first of all, in helping develop a conceptual approach on how to improve the international understanding and how to attract attention to the issue of fighting hunger and poverty on the part of Governments and international financial institutions.
At the same time, as is being shown by the FAO's statistics, if we continue with the current trend the goal set by Summit of 1996, namely, reducing by half the number of undernourished in the world within 20 years is unfortunately unlikely to be attained. Basically, all of the speakers who took the floor mentioned that. In this regard, the participants of this forum have the goal to make sure that in the upcoming years practical steps are undertaken in order to make sure that the laudable and noble humanitarian goals are attained.
Dear colleagues, Russia very often is perceived throughout the world as a major military power. At the same time and perhaps, above and beyond anything else, however, Russia is a major agrarian power. Let me give you a few figures to illustrate this. We have, in my country, a slightly more in excess of two percent of the overall number of people living. At the same time, our stocks of arable land are ten percent of the world amount and we have fifty percent of the global freshwater stocks. Now, our scientists tell us that the territory of my country cannot just house but also feed about one billion people. This is the agrarian and biological potential of my country which, because of the global changes in climate, is continuing to grow.
The Russian Federation is among countries with economies in transition. We are undergoing a very difficult painful period of reform. We are moving away from a rigid planned economy and towards market relationships. We think of the critical period as already behind us and among others, the economic indicators attest to that. Agriculture is already showing growth and this can be attested to by the fact that, for example, in 1991-1998 the drop in production volume was on average 5.5 percent annually. However, in the last three years we have been registering a positive trend and the annual rates of growth in the sector are now 6.2 percent. The economic situation of agricultural organizations and agricultural entities, is improving. The agriculture, as a whole, is now delivering returns on the money and is profitable.
Our grain resources, including industrial wheat, is something that we have enough of to cover the needs of the country and even allows us to have an export potential at the level of five million tonnes. As a result of the increase recently in the demand for meat and dairy goods, we are also noticing a growth in those sectors as well. All of this is important because during the years of reform, we saw a decrease in the food supplies per capita by about 40 percent. That was the level of decrease and that was already in itself something that presented a threat of physical degradation for our people, especially children.
All of the positive changes in the nutritious content of our people - which I already mentioned earlier - happened by the way practically without any state support to the agriculture in the form of direct subsidies. Let me give you an example and say that the level of assistance in Russia to agriculture calculated for one hectare of arable land is about fifty times lower than in the countries of the European Union.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to raise a topical issue here; an issue which we will all have to candidly tackle sooner or later. We are witnessing worldwide globalization and integration, and this is something that will lead us to the need for an effective international division of productive forces and labour.
Agriculture, of course, is not just an economic phenomenon; it is also a very important social aspect in the life of any country. This is the area which represents a certain lifestyle, certain cultural and national traditions and customs for the peoples of a given state. We agree that, bearing that in mind and also taking into account the issues of food security and self-sufficiency, every developed country has the right to determine its own policy of protectionism and support to agriculture. However, we do have to try and strike an equitable balance here and try and move away from excessive subsidies which result in ineffective farmers and unfair competition. These are the issues to which I would like to draw first and foremost the attention of the United States and the countries of the European Union.
Now, continuing this thought, we could perhaps propose ways of effectively helping poor countries in order to bring down the number of undernourished. Clearly this kind of food assistance is something that has to go through very highly-targeted programmes, for example, we can think of organizing systems whereby we can feed children at school. The second area here is the financial support to developing, economically-weak countries in order to help them take on both advanced technologies and modernize their agriculture.
Madame Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen, in conclusion, I would like to yet once again underscore the fact that the Russian Federation attaches great importance to cooperation with FAO. The evil which we encounter in our lives has many faces. It can be poverty, hunger, crime, drugs, terrorism or wars, but all of these faces of evil in the Twenty-first century are not something that can be a problem for a single country.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Italy, Mr Berlusconi, quoted an example from the life of the Soviet Union and quoted an important classic of Communism. I would like to follow in his footsteps and say the following: launching an appeal to the hungry of all our countries to unite is something that sounds very dangerous. Our motto within FAO should be “Poor and Wealthy of all Countries Unite”, and only then we may see our struggle for justice and the preservation of mankind begin.
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